Manish Nai India, b. 1980


Manish Nai is on the vanguard of contemporary abstraction. His studio practice is rooted strongly in materiality and process, especially as those elements relate to daily life in Mumbai, India, where Nai lives and works.


Nai prioritizes materials that are both modest and quintessentially interconnected to his surroundings, such as jute, newspaper, indigo dye, second hand books and clothing, and reclaimed metal and paper. He fashions these materials into elegant geometric forms, while allowing them to retain their natural textures and colors.


Many of Nai’s pieces are studies in tedious complexities, such as the long term effects of water, light, or gravity on organic materials. Nai is particularly interested in the ways materials evolve over the course of months and years. His works can be interpreted as visual expressions of the compression of time. When complete, they are presented as tightly organized units.


Nai’s use of everyday and often discarded materials alludes to social hierarchies, both in terms of artistic media and Indian social structures. Nai's use of newspapers, for example, examines the tremendous diversity and contention within Indian society—there are almost 100 newspapers in 19 different languages distributed daily in India. He soaks them, stripping them of their words, and compresses them in wooden molds, elevating the material from disposable to the rarified.


Similarly, jute is common throughout Indian society. A strong vegetable fiber, it is often woven into a durable fabric, similar to burlap; it was once used as clothing material for the poor and is now more commonly used in building construction. Nai hails from a family of jute traders, and his intimate understanding of the material is informed equally by his cultural and family background.


Nai represented India in the 9th Shanghai Biennale, Mumbai City Pavilion, Shanghai, China, and is a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award winner. His work has been exhibited by some of the most influential institutions in the world, including Het Noordbrabants Museum, Netherlands; Fondation Fernet-Branca, Saint-Louis, France; Devi Art Foundation, Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum, Ahmedabad, India; Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, India; NTU Center for Contemporary Art Singapore, Gillman Barracks, Singapore; Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Poland; The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace, Nahargrah Fort, Jaipur, India; DR. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, India; Art Science Museum, Singapore; Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata, India; National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India; and Beppu Museum, Beppu, Japan. Nai earned a Diploma in Drawing and Painting from the L.S. Raheja School of Art in Mumbai, India.