Basking in the glory of Rajput history, the iconic Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur has always remained a favourite among the tourists. Built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734 the fort overlooks the pink city. And now, it is also home to a sculpture park.

First of its kind in the country, the Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace in Nahargarh Fort has turned into a hub of contemporary art where 15 Indian artists and 9 international artists have presented their collections. The park, which opened its doors on December 10, is a public-private collaboration between the Rajasthan government and the not-for-profit Saat Saath Arts.

Acclaimed curator Peter Nagy, who is the brain behind this concept, said it was a challenge for him to give a twist in the appearance of the fort but without hampering its surface.

“Maintaining the art is difficult, some of the works are even kept in open, there is a risk of it being damaged by natural calamities as well as visitors. But there is a great scope of contemporary art in India which is gradually spreading its roots. And it’s just a small step towards it. For most of my career as a gallerist and curator, I have been trying to break away from the white-box exhibition space. With this project, I am able to indulge my passions for art, architecture and decor into a marvellous synthesis of the past and the present,” Nagy told IANS.

For artist Jitish Kallat, whose works “Annexation” and “Vertical Chronicle of a Turbulent Equilibrium” are being showcased in the sculpture park, there were no second thoughts when he was approached because he found the concept a fresh one.

“Contemporary art as such necessarily need to be in an environment which is devoid of any content. When you see work against the backdrop of a really majestic architectural and historical structure it only adds one more dimension to the meaning,” Kallat told IANS.

Artist Ravinder Reddy who has taken up the very contemporary issue of migration believes there couldn’t have been a better place for his art than a heritage site. Reddy’s “Migrant” is a reflection of unacknowledged heroes, those who raise children, run homes, and keep families together. With “Migrant” he commemorates women who are extremely pertinent in the world of 2017: the refugee who is forced to move from one location to another, often with her children and all she owns are on her head and her back.

“We are always creating history. In that context, I feel the sculpture is very relevant because you are associating with an old structure and at the same time looking forward at the present. This is perhaps one of the best way to engage with past and present at a time,” Reddy noted.

While curator Nagy expressed concern about the preservation of the sculptures, artists Thukral and Tagra voiced just the opposite; they wanted their piece of art to touched and felt by all. Titled “Memorial – a & b (wings), the work recreates the imagery which came as a sequence of images in dream.

“The realisation was kind of introspective; where the very desires of mankind are expressed but cannot be achieved. This reflects our desires which cannot be fulfilled, which are so heavy that cannot be lifted, cannot fly. We want the visitors to touch it and relate it with their own buried desires,” Thukral commented.

With the sculpture park, Rajasthan has indicated it is eyeing to turn into the next art destination and the artists were happy with this.

“There are many art institutions in the state, especially in Jaipur. The state has got immense scope to become the next destination for major art exhibitions. It is welcome that the government has shown such keen interest towards art and extended its support for the cause,” Kallat mentioned.

“For many years now, people have been coming to this beautiful palace — they come, they look and go away. To keep this space living, it is important to merge it with today. It’s a privilege for someone like me to enable this happen,” Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje commented.