The Road Less Traveled Exhibition Series



Feb. 25 - June 4, 2017

From the debris of demolished villages—scrap metal, oil drums, fabric, pottery, jewelry, and more—rose a kingdom of immortal beings: Rock Garden of Chandigarh. Drawing on nearly two hundred works from the Arts Center collection, site photos, and drawn surveys, this exhibition sought to evoke the multifaceted nature of Nek Chand’s extraordinary art environment.

Explore the exhibition

Ends Jun. 2017

About this exhibition

In 1958, Nek Chand (1924–2015) began on a pathway leading to the creation of an art environment that would transform a physically and spiritually damaged region of India. The results of his tireless efforts, spanning more than five decades, are seen today in The Rock Garden of Chandigarh.

Chand worked as a roads inspector for the massive urban development project to build Chandigarh, the modern new capital city for the territory of the same name. As he worked by day, Chand collected uniquely shaped stones and rubble from the many villages destroyed during the city’s construction. By 1965, he began to transform and arrange his collections in secret and by cover of night at a hidden location on government land outside the city. Chand worked without plans, creating his garden incrementally and organically. The result was an expansive garden of concrete figures, winding pathways, and enclosed structures.

What Chand built defies simple description. It is a cohesive yet complex space populated with a splendid array of characters he described as “immortal beings of an otherworldly kingdom.” Soldiers, children, gods, goddesses, elephants, monkeys, peacocks, and bears are among the ten thousand concrete sculptures. Elements of Mughal architecture including domed pillars, curved roofs, and pointed archways as well as vernacular motifs typical of his childhood home are seen in the structures, walls, terraces, and low-slung arches.

Over the years, the garden was threatened by demolition, closure, and vandalism. But through perseverance and with the support of family, community members, and ultimately government officials, Chand’s vision prevailed. Today, the site is India’s second most visited destination, following the Taj Mahal. In the late 1990s, Chand aided the Arts Center in becoming home to the largest body of his work outside of India.

Dr. Iain Jackson has spent years researching and documenting the landscape, architecture, and objects of the Rock Garden with the help of Chand and other professionals in the field of architecture. The exhibition included his scaled survey drawings of the garden as well as a book detailing more than two thousand objects that Chand collected.

Through the design of the gallery space, this exhibition presented the important connection between the terrain of the garden and the rich variety and multiplicity of the sculptures therein.

explore the collections

Nek Chand at Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo: n.d., Suresh Kumar, courtesy of Raw Vision.



Iain Jackson is an architect and historian at the Liverpool School of Architecture, UK. His PhD research catalogued Nek Chand’s work at The Rock Garden of Chandigarh and positioned it within a broader canon of Indian Modernism. More recently he has been investigating '“tropical architecture” in India and Ghana. Through survey drawings and a detailed catalogue of every collected rock and sculpture installed in the garden, Jackson explored the evolution of Chand’s creation.

Dr. Iain Jackson

Dr. Iain Jackson is deputy head of architecture, BA director of studies, and senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool, with an emphasis in the history of architecture in colonial/postcolonial nations and the notion of Modernism in India.

Dr. Iain Jackson's Site Drawings

Dig A Little Deeper...

Join Dr. Iain Jackson in this documented video of our Panel Discussion about THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED.

Engage with the curriculum presented by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Education Department. They brought thought-provoking lesson plans to our community that tied in with THE WORLD IN A GARDEN exhibition.

Read a special Q & A from the responder, Dr. Iain Jackson, in our gallery handout.

If you want to learn even more about Nek Chand, you can purchase an in-depth publication from our online store or at ARTspace.

Queens and Kings

The Road Less Traveled Conference

Dig deeper into conference sessions, view panelist bios and abstracts, read session descriptions, and continue the conversation in session forums by visiting The Road Less Traveled conference portal.

Through this web portal, you will be able to share new ideas and broaden the collective knowledge and appreciation of this unique style of art making that was the focus of a yearlong series of exhibitions at the Arts Center.

Learn More

This exhibition 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, Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., Herzfeld Foundation and Sargento Foods Inc. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) organization; donations are tax deductible.

The Road Less Traveled 50th anniversary program was conceived by Amy Horst, deputy director for programming. The exhibitions series was organized and curated by Arts Center Curator Karen Patterson. Special thanks to Emily Schlemowitz, assistant curator, for the curation of Driftless: Nick Engelbert & Ernest Hüpeden and Folk & Fable: Levi Fisher Ames & Albert Zahn, and Amy Chaloupka, guest curator of The World in a Garden: Nek Chand and Volumes: Stella Waitzkin.