NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian artist Nek Chand, who created the Rock Garden, a sprawling display of quirky sculptures crafted out of discarded household items and waste in the northern city of Chandigarh, has died. He was 90.
Chand died in a hospital in Chandigarh on Friday after being hospitalized for chest pains, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. In a condolence message, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Chand would always be remembered for his "artistic genius and fabulous creation."
Chand began working on his craft in the 1960s, when he cleared a small patch in the forest behind Chandigarh's Sukhna Lake and started creating charming statues and figurines using everything from discarded rubber tires to colorful glass bangles. For several years it remained a personal project until he was discovered by city officials, who threatened to dismantle his work. But the artist found many local supporters and in 1976 the Rock Garden was formally inaugurated and began to welcome thousands of visitors.
Chand continued to create new work until the very end, adding new displays at the garden. Soothing waterfalls washed over charming statues made of broken ceramic tiles. Colorful rows of glass bangle figurines contrasted with charming mud and cement animals.
He continued to experiment with new materials and styles as the garden grew and evolved. The more recent additions included sculptures made of cement, metal wires and mud. As his acclaim grew he was able to hire workers and also drew hundreds of volunteers from across the world.
The 25-acre (10-hectare) garden attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.