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Self-Taught Art
Folk Artists

Nek Chand Saini
Born December 15, 1924

Nek Chand, a man of undeniable genius yet with no artistic training, came from the humble origins of a small Punjabi village. He fled his home during the partition of Indian and Pakistan in 1947 and settled in India's most modern city, Chandigargh, the government buildings of which were designed by the renowned architect Le Corbusier. As a government roads inspector, Chand witnessed the building of Chandigargh as it gradually replaced the many rural villages that were razed in the process.

From 1958 to 1965 Nek Chand collected the discarded materials that were the result of this urbanization process before beginning his "unauthorized" — and thus secret — rock garden project. At first, the government threatened to remove the garden. Chand, however, managed to overcome the ire of the officials, who eventually provided the artist with 200 workers for his project. Officially inaugurated in 1976, the garden is now a forty-acre sculptured landscape filled with thousands of human and animal figures made from broken glass, smashed crockery, bicycle frames, Coke bottle tops, colorful palstic bangles, slate and tile, broken earthenware pots, and countless other materials. Surrounded by a densely forested gorge at the edge of Chandigargh, the park also comprises a network of waterfalls, make-believe castles, open air chambers, and connecting paths. Nek Chand's garden is a resting place for the spirits of God's creatures. With an enormous range of sculptures — from bucolic folk scenes to distraught maidens, from armies of soldiers to herds of animals, as well as forests and arrangements of metamorphic rocks — Chand has created and continues to create his own enchanted kingdom.

In addition to the Rock Garden in Chandigargh, Nek Chand has permanent installations in Berlin and Washington, D.C. He had a year-long exhibition entitled "Bhool Bhooolaiyan" at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Chand's awards include India's Padama Shri Award, which designates him as a national treasure, and the Grand Medaille Vermeil, the highest distinction bestowed by the municipality of Paris.

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