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‘Buying art is elitist, but viewing isn’t’

Not many know that Noelle Kadar’s association with India has been incredibly long. Twelve years to be precise. She first arrived in India in January 2006 and spent a few months working on a project in Varanasi. That time she was an art student at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. We are at the penultimate stage of 2018 and Noelle is frantically occupied in the preparations of the second edition of the exhibition at the Sculpture Park in Jaipur, which will open on December 9. As the director the Park, which is situated in the magnificent Madhavendra Palace, she is entrusted with organisational responsibilities. In Noelle’s works despite being a trained artist, she “enjoys organising more than creating”, and perhaps that is the reason why there is an emphasis on “family programming” than “school trips” at the Park. Ahead of the opening, Noelle gave ACF an exclusive insight into the highlights, besides sharing her vision for the Park.

Excerpts:

Can you share a few highlights of the second edition of the festival at the Park and your role.

Our second edition includes a number of site-specific installations, with many artists arriving in Jaipur a few weeks early to specially create works in reaction to their allotted exhibition space. I think being able to see work specifically created for Madhavendra Palace is a real highlight, we have a stunning work by Richard Long in our main courtyard. Similar to last edition, we insure that the split between Indian artists and artists from other parts of the world is relatively even, so that visitors really enjoy a broad spectrum of art practices.

We have also seen an incredible amount of support from international galleries who believe in this project and understand how art needs to be public first. Blain Southern (London, Berlin) has supported by loaning us a beautiful large sculpture by Lynn Chadwick, a stunning work that looks just incredible in our space.

What kind of initiatives are you taking to increase the engagement of the common man with art?

We welcome on average 3,500 people a day during peak season, and even in the summers we see visitors in the hundreds. In many ways, the fact that we are in an eighteenth-century palace solves the problem that many other contemporary exhibition spaces face. We don’t need to do much at all to bring in visitors. Our job is to make sure that everyone who visits the palace gets to experience the exhibition and walks away feeling a sense of understanding and hopefully of connection to some of the art they have experienced.

Though we have seen an increase in visitors since we opened last December, honestly, we don’t have to do much to ensure our space is full. I think, signage becomes very important — how we explain works of art, the type of language we use, and of course everything is in Hindi and English. Our programming brings in further areas of engagement at deeper levels.

The appreciation and understanding for the arts in India isn’t nurtured the way it is in the West. Is lack of education, perhaps, one of the primary reasons why there is lack of art appreciation in India? What is your take on this?

I don’t know if I am best placed to answer this question, but growing up in New York it was very common to visit galleries and museums on weekends. In fact, even now, whenever I am home, I usually end up seeing one or two exhibitions with my parents and brother. I think one of the differences I see in India, having lived here for the last twelve years, is that art isn’t seen as a family activity and that is something we are trying to change. We are incorporating a lot of family programming, I think this is almost more important than visiting on a school trip.

Jaipur has become a new hub for art lovers. The juxtaposition of heritage with elements like music, literature and art is what makes the city dynamic. How do you view the city? And in that scheme of things, where does the Sculpture Park fits?

I have spent a good amount of time in Jaipur over the last twelve years and I have seen it evolve to become this incredible cultural hub. The Sculpture Park is one more initiative that puts Jaipur on the global cultural map.

What are the challenges that you face in your role as a director? How are visitors reacting to the concept? What I would be interesting in knowing is how the common man/tourist or a local is responding to the initiative of bringing art and heritage together?

You should come see for yourself! The reactions we get from our visitors is really incredible, lots of selfies, lots of questions, along with some very interesting and thoughtful observations about the artworks. I think we need to give everyone a little more credit, just because one is not trained to look at contemporary art doesn’t mean one cannot instantly connect with it. With that said, I read a few trip advisor comments recently that were pretty negative, apparently some people feel the artwork gets in the way of their view of The Palace, this is our opportunity to change their minds.

I love this project, and I believe that what we are doing is important, this conviction probably outweighs any challenges we face. If it were easy it wouldn’t be as fun.

How do you envision the future of the space in terms of activities?

We see Madhavendra Palace as a multipurpose/ multifunctional space, not only for exhibition, but for activity, for learning, a space where one can pursue other creative endeavours.

You were previously associated with India Art Fair. Was that your first introduction to India? Or had you been to India before? I would like to know about your association with India.

I’ve been in India since January 2006. I spent a few months working on a project in Varanasi while I was an art student at Rhode Island School of Design. Before India Art Fair, I was already living in India and had been working in India for some time. I’ve always been involved in art and design.

What is the thing or things about Jaipur that you like? How does the city and its people inspire you to ensure that the local flavour remains a leitmotif at the Sculpture Park?

I think Jaipur has mastered the subtle art of being both seamlessly modern and traditional at the same time. I think this is why The Sculpture Park makes so much sense here. It fits into Jaipur’s identity.

Art is considered to be elitist and galleries intimidating. Where does the Sculpture Park fit?

The Sculpture Park is neither elitist nor intimidating, everyone is welcome all the time. We close only two days a year. We remain open during installation, choosing to let our visitors see the entire process of the project. Buying art is elitist by nature it’s luxury commodity and generally very expensive, but viewing art isn’t elitist and it’s a shame people feel this way.

How did your journey with art begin and what aspect/aspects of art you enjoy the most?

I suppose I trained as an artist and I’ve always thought more like an artist, though I realised early on that I enjoy organising more than I enjoy creating, which led me to my role with India Art Fair and now this. I do think my training gives me an interesting perspective now that I am more on the business side of the arts.

I enjoy creativity, I enjoy freedom of thought and expression, and of course, I enjoy beauty, even in its uglier forms.

Photo Credit: Sheena Dabholkar




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