BEST-KNOWN for carving stones into various shapes to tell stories of success and spirituality, Adwaita Gadanayak is set to take charge as director-general of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). He succeeds Rajeev Lochan, who retired on June 30 after being at the helm for 16 years.
The Ministry of Culture had recommended Gadanayak’s name more than three months ago, and the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) finally approved it on Friday afternoon.
“I had applied for the post around 11 months ago, almost four months before Rajeev Lochan was to vacate the office. At that time, I had also submitted my vision and mission statement if I were to head the organisation,” the Odisha-based told The Indian Express on Friday. “I want to make Delhi a global art hub. Also, we should showcase indigenous art abroad and make a mark on the international art scene.”
Head of the School of Sculpture at Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), Bhubaneswar, the 47-year-old is not an unfamiliar face in the Capital, occasionally working from his studio at Kaladham in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
Winner of the Lalit Kala Akademi National Award for Sculpture in 1993, Gadanayak is also a former convener of Odisha BJP’s art and culture cell, and had attended RSS shakhas in his youth. Gadanayak, however, said, “I am a sculptor and I can talk about how to carve stones, but not politics. As an artist, I have got nothing to do with politics.”
Sources in the Culture ministry said five people were being considered for the post from over a dozen applicants. Gadanayak was reportedly sent feelers by the decision-makers to apply for the post.
Recalling Gadanayak as his graduation student at BK College of Art and Crafts, Bhubaneswar-based artist Ramahari Jena said, “He always wanted to work on large-scale works. There was a lot of energy but his demeanor was gentle. He remained down to earth.”
Born in Neulapoi, a small village in Dhenkanal district of Odisha, Gadanayak’s first lessons in art reportedly came from observing his mother design clay artefacts for puja. After MFA in sculpture from the College of Art, Delhi, he went to London to study at the prestigious Slade College of Fine Arts in the mid-1990s, and returned to Odisha to practice.
Yet to receive a formal appointment letter, Gadanayak is packing his bags for Delhi. “I will be there next week,” he said.