Nek ChandNek Chand Saini
A waterfall in Chand's Rock Garden Born December 15, 1924(1924-12-15) (age 83)
Barian Kalan, Shakargarh, Punjab, British Indian Empire(now in Pakistan) Nationality IndianField Architecture, SculptureMovement Outsider ArtWorks The Rock Garden of Chandigarh
Nek Chand Saini (नेक चंद सैणी)is an Indian self-taught artist, famous for building the Rock Garden of Chandigarh, a forty-acre (160,000 m²) sculpture garden in the city of Chandigarh, India. His family moved to Chandigarh in 1947 during the Partition. At the time, the city was being redesigned as a modern utopia by the Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. It was to be the first planned city in India, and Chand found work there as a roads inspector for the Public Works Department in 1951.
The Rock Garden
In his spare time, Chand began collecting materials from demolition sites around the city. He recycled these materials into his own vision of the divine kingdom of Sukrani, choosing a gorge in a forest near Sukhna Lake for his work. The gorge had been designated as a land conservancy, a forest buffer established in 1902 that nothing could be built on. Chand’s work was illegal, but he was able to hide it for eighteen years before it was discovered by the authorities in 1975. By this time, it had grown into a twelve-acre complex of interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of pottery-covered concrete sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals.
His work was in serious danger of being demolished, but he was able to get public opinion on his side, and in 1976 the park was inaugurated as a public space. Nek Chand was given a salary, a title ("Sub-Divisional Engineer, Rock Garden"), and a workforce of 50 laborers so that he could concentrate full-time on his work. It even appeared on an Indian stamp in 1983. The Rock Garden is still made out of recycled materials; and with the government’s help, Chand was able to set up collection centers around the city for waste, especially rags and broken ceramics.
When Chand left the country on a lecture tour in 1996, the city withdrew its funding, and vandals attacked the park. The Rock Garden Society took over the administration and upkeep of this unique visionary environment. The garden is visited by over five thousand people daily, with a total of more than twelve million visitors since its inception.
Chand's statues have found their way into museums across the world, including an environment at the Capitol Children’s Museum in Washington, DC, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and the main entrance to the Musée de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, USA owns the largest collection of Chand's work outside of Chandigarh. The pieces are currently on exhibition there through January 2008 as part of the museum's focus on artist environment builders, or outsider artists.
An exhibition of Nek Chand's work also took place at the RIBA gallery in Liverpool, England from April 16th to May 11th 2007. The exhibition displayed survey drawings of the garden's architecture and landscaping, and plans to be a traveling exhibition.
- Brooke Davis Anderson (2006), Concrete Kingdom: Sculptures by Nek Chand. Folk Art 31(1–2): 42–49.
- Iain Jackson (2007), Politicised Territory: Nek Chand’s Rock Garden in Chandigarh. Global Built Environment Review 2(2):51–68 .
- Nek Chand Foundation, includes information on Chand and pictures of the garden.
- Nek Chand's Story from The Folk Art Messenger.
- Nek Chand – the untutored genius who built a paradise from Raw Vision
- Recent research on Chand's work is described at www.nekchand.info and the Liverpool School of Architecture.
- A PBS Travelogue on Chand.
- Nek Chand's Rock Garden, and essay with photographs.
- Nek Chand page at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.
- India - Nek Chand - Jivya Soma Mashe, photos of an exhibition of Chand and Mashe (in French).
- Pictures and history of the garden (in French).
- The Mosaics of Nek Chand