Starting November 2023 through November 2024, The Contemporary Austin will showcase a mural by Austin-based artist, Manik Raj Nakra, on the Jones Center’s downtown building façade on the high-traffic corner of 7th and Congress. The Contemporary will collaborate with Nakra to develop a mural concept that builds on his past body of work, which stylistically takes equal inspiration from classical Indian iconography, ancient mythologies, and pop culture. His paintings and drawings often depict colorful and humorous interactions between humans, deities, and animals that act as a metaphor for the legacies of imperialism and humankind’s impact on the environment.
Manik Raj Nakra, a self-taught artist, has shown his work throughout Texas and is a beloved figure in the Austin art scene, with exhibitions at galleries and nonprofit art spaces including Big Medium, Martha’s Contemporary, and Co-Lab. Notably, he was featured in The Contemporary Austin’s Crit Group Reunion: Facing the World (2021) exhibition. He has produced smaller-scale murals for organizations including UT Austin and Facebook. Now, The Contemporary Austin is pleased to spotlight Nakra through a commissioned mural—his largest project to date—that will raise his profile among a national and international art audience while amplifying our commitment to our local arts community.
Manik Raj Nakra’s (b. 1982, Olympia, WA; lives and works in Austin, TX) paintings, drawings, and installations take inspiration from ancient mythology to reflect on humankind’s existential relationship to nature in the present. His work is often characterized by a colorful palette employing a graphic language referencing traditional Indian iconography and ancient artifacts and architecture. Although his subjects are located within historically rooted narratives, they invite viewers to reflect on the contemporary relevance of themes such as power, imperialism, lust, spirituality, and ecology. For the past decade, Nakra has consistently exhibited his artwork in solo and group exhibitions throughout Texas. He received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004.
Via the museum’s mural program, the Jones Center facade is transformed and activated as a prominent exhibition space. The presence of a mural at the museum’s central public location— blocks away from the state’s capitol building— activates the local environment and offers an extraordinarily accessible contemporary art experience amid downtown city life. Austin residents, workers, and visitors can live with a contemporary artist-created mural for an extended period of time—contemplating it at different times of day, developing a new relationship with an artist’s work, and experiencing contemporary art as a regular part of their lives—irrespective of ever stepping foot inside the museum. The mural at The Contemporary, presented alongside Jim Hodges’ With Liberty and Justice For All (A Work in Progress…), distinguishes the corner of 7th & Congress as a highly visible public art experience that is an integral part of all Congress Avenue has to offer.
ORIGIN OF THE MURAL PROGRAM
The mural program was born out of the challenges of the pandemic, as The Contemporary was driven to think creatively and resourcefully about how to connect the public with unique contemporary art experiences even during periods of social distancing. The program was launched with a new work by Austin-based artist Deborah Roberts (2021), followed by a large-scale mural of work by the beloved and iconic Daniel Johnston (2022), and most recently featured a text-based piece by internationally renowned artist Jenny Holzer (2022)—each project presented in concert with an exhibition.
This original work of art was sponsored by our friends at The Loren, who share our commitment to supporting artists and the creative culture of Austin.
Additional funding generously provided by:
Renata Anderson and Raj Singh, Neema Amini, Chirag & Avani Jhaveri, Meena Vendal, Nidhi & Tanuj Nakra, Deepa Donde, Paradeep & Rushmi Kumar, Avani & Chris Vije, Emily & Bob Wong, Shelli Sehti, Robin & Rob Wilder