From the debris of demolished villages—scrap metal, oil drums, fabric, pottery, jewelry, and more—rose a kingdom of immortal beings: the Rock Garden of Chandigarh.
The World in a Garden, an original exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center through June 4, draws on nearly 200 works from its collection and the work of an architectural historian. The combination brings out previously unexplored facets of Nek Chand’s extraordinary art environment.
Public interest in Chand’s work often focuses on his endearing sculptures.Yet the topography and the enclosures Chand utilized in his Rock Garden of Chandigarh are worth equal consideration. The World in a Garden endeavors to link Chand’s sculptures to the architecture and landscape that both elevates and grounds them.
To that end, the Arts Center collaborated with Dr. Iain Jackson, architect and historian at the Liverpool School of Architecture, UK. In the early 2000s, Jackson catalogued Chand’s work and positioned it within a broader canon of Indian Modernism. Jackson’s site photos, survey drawings and detailed catalogue of every collected rock and sculpture in the garden are combined with a constructed gallery landscape that captures the feeling of the garden environment, emulating the enclosed canyons, dense compositions, and dramatic vistas.
About The Rock Garden of Chandigarh
In 1951, Nek Chand (1924–2015) settled into work as a roads inspector for the massive urban development project to build the city of Chandigarh. By day, he collected uniquely shaped stones and rubble from the villages destroyed during the construction. By night he arranged his collections illicitly on government land. What Chand built defies simple description. The sculpted terrain, lush vegetation, and cascading waterfalls create a grand theatre for a splendid cast of characters conjured from Chand’s dreams and childhood memories; soldiers, children, animals, gods and goddesses, dancers, musicians, water carriers, and pilgrims populate his kingdom.
Over the years, the garden has been threatened by demolition, closure, and vandalism. But through perseverance of vision and with the support of family, community members, and ultimately government officials, Chand’s garden prevails. It remains one of India’s most beloved destinations. In the late 1990s, Chand aided the Arts Center in becoming home to the largest body of his work outside of India.
Admission to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is free. The Arts Center, located at 608 New York Ave. in downtown Sheboygan, Wis., is open daily except major holidays. Call 920-458-6144 or visit jmkac.org for more information.
The World in a Garden is one of 15 exhibitions in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s yearlong 50th-anniversary series, "The Road Less Traveled." The series is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) organization; donations are tax deductible.
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
608 New York Ave.
About John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Founded in 1967, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is dedicated to making innovative arts programming accessible to a broad audience that ranges from artists and academics to families and youth of all ages. Central to its mission is promoting understanding and appreciation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists through original exhibitions, commissioned works of art, performing arts programs, community arts initiatives, and publications. The Arts Center’s collections focus primarily on works by vernacular-environment builders, self-taught and folk artists, and works created in the Arts/Industry residency program.
Admission to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is by voluntary donation. Memberships, which support the free-admission policy, are available at the Arts Center, by visiting jmkac.org, or by calling 920-458-6144. Members enjoy discounts to ticketed events, on purchases in the ARTspace shops, and on workshop and class tuition. JMKAC is a 501(c)3 (nonprofit) organization; donations are tax deductible.
Arts Center Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
John Michael Kohler Arts Center