Born just west of the Indian border in Pakistan, Nek Chand fled with his family into the Hindu region of India during the partition of 1947. The time was one of upheaval and trauma for millions, and though it took Nek Chand a number of years to find a way toward renewal, the environment he made was a story of regeneration on an epic scale. From the waste of villages—scrap metal, fabric, pottery, and more—rose the kingdom of immortal beings: The Rock Garden of Chandigarh. For 16 years, the artist worked in secrecy since the land on which he worked belonged to the state. When he was discovered, he feared the worst. The artist estimated that by then he had made some 20,000 kings, queens, animals, and other figures, sprawling over a six-acre patch of land. There were some rough years, but Nek Chand’s vision of the Rock Garden prevailed, and currently it is India’s second most visited place, following the Taj Mahal.
Nek Chand aided the Arts Center in becoming home to what remains the largest body of the artist’s work outside of India.