Add Your Name in Support of Saint Malo’s Famed Seaside Sculptures in France!

Close

SPACES Mourns the Passing of Indian Artist Nek Chand

Posted in SPACES News

Nek Chand, creator of the Rock Garden of Chandigarh in India, died on Friday, June 12, at the age of 90. Mr. Chand started building his beloved Rock Garden in 1957—a breathtaking work that spans 40 acres, and is built entirely of discarded materials. 

nekMr. Chand at age 76. Image via Reuters.

Mr. Chand built the ‪Rock Garden‬ of Chandigarh as his vision of the divine kingdom on Sukrani on a land conservancy gorge near Sukhna Lake. In 1975, at around 13-acres, his guerrilla artwork was discovered by authorities and was in danger of being demolished. Thanks to the public’s advocacy, in 1976, it was designated a public space, and Chand was given a title (Sub-Divisional Engineer), and a salary to continue building and maintaining it, along with a workforce of 50 Laborers. The now 40-acre site is visited by 5,000 people daily, and is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. 

 

The New York Times, in an obituary for Mr. Chand, recalls the artist’s beginnings: 

“The creation story of the Rock Garden has the tenor of a local epic. Mr. Chand was born Nek Chand Saini on Dec. 15, 1924, in the village of Barian Kalan, which became part of Pakistan after partition. He was newly arrived in the city of Chandigarh just after India’s independence in 1947. He worked for the government as a road inspector, according to the Department of Chandigarh Tourism website. But, Ms. Bajaj said, he became fascinated by found objects, including weather-beaten rocks. 

 

“I started building this garden as a hobby” in the 1950s, he said in an interview with Agence France-Presse in December. “I had many ideas, I was thinking all the time. I saw beauty and art in what people said was junk.” By night he slipped onto a patch of land and artfully arranged rocks and construction waste behind a barricade of empty tar drums.

 

“The beautiful stones he set aside, and then he would set them up like a jeweler,” said Ms. Bajaj, who was introduced to the sculptures in 1972, when, she said, the garden was still something of a secret. “When Nek Chand would pick them up and put them in a particular way, suddenly you could see, my God, this is a woman with a child.”

We at Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments (SPACES) remember the important work and legacy of Nek Chand, and are thankful for his contribution to India and the world-over. Mr. Chand’s Rock Garden is an inspiring example of a people and their government not only supporting and sustaining a self-taught art environment, but articulating it as a valuable cultural marker in the region:

“It has made Chandigarh complete,” said Rupan Deol Bajaj, a retired bureaucrat from Punjab who has been an advocate of protecting the garden. “It has given a soul to the city.”

Below, enjoy a video on the on-going conservation of the Rock Garden of Chandigarh. If you have images of, or documentation on Nek Chand’s Rock Garden, and would like to submit that detail for the Rock Garden page on the SPACES Archives Online Collection, please contact us HERE

 

Nek Chand’s Rock Garden - Work In Progress from Alan Cesarano on Vimeo.

Browse Blog Archives by Month
Highlights

Act Now: Save The Last Resort - A Working Model of Sustainability in Marin County, CA
Take Action, Threatened Environments

Conservator-in-Residence Position, Hartman Rock Garden - Ohio
Preservation News

SPACES Honors Watts Towers Committee Founding Member Jeanne Smith Morgan on her 90th Birthday!
Preservation News, SPACES News

Remembering Josep Pujiula i Vila (1937-2016)
Just Added, Self-Taught Arts in the News

Dispatch from the Field: Jo Farb Hernández in Spain
Just Added, SPACES News

Materializing the Bible. by James S. Bielo (Miami University)
Gardens, Religious, Devotional & Spiritual

Call to Action: Preserve Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village in California
Threatened Environments

Mr. Imagination exhibit at Intuit named one of 10 best in the United States
Self-Taught Arts in the News

SPACES Director to Present Singular Spaces at Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum
SPACES News

Margaret’s Grocery listed as one of Mississippi’s Historic Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Properties!
Preservation News, Threatened Environments

The SPACES website allows you to save your favorite art environments and share them with your friends or colleagues. Create your own portfolio of your favorites from environments in the online collection.

Send them to your friends, post them on Facebook or to your Twitter account!

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces