Arts and Entertainment

For the first time, over 90 artworks from 37 contemporary Nepali artists to be exhibited in Vienna next year

- Pranaya SJB Rana, Kathmandu

Dec 13, 2018-

For the first time, over 90 artworks from 37 contemporary Nepali artists are going to be exhibited at the Weltmuseum in Vienna next year in a showcase of modern Nepali art.

Curated by Christian Shicklgruber, director and chief curator of the Weltmuseum, the late Dina Bangdel and Swosti Rajbhandari Kayastha of the Nepal Art Council, the exhibition will be displayed on display in the Austrian capital city from April 11-November 5. 

Such an expansive exhibition of modern Nepali art—from the inception of modern art in the 50s to recent innovations in abstract, mixed-media and repousse work—has never been displayed internationally before, said Shicklgruber. Similar exhibitions have taken place in Denmark and France, but never on this scale. 

“This will be a monumental, landmark exhibition,” said Kayastha.

The idea for the project was first born in 2015 when Shicklgruber and Bangdel were in Singapore, looking to put up an exhibition showcasing Nepali art from the 10th to the 18th century. 

“Then I thought to myself, Nepali art did not stop in the 18th century,” said Shicklgruber. The idea was then reconceptualised with Bangdel to showcase the entire oeuvre of Nepali contemporary art. The two managed to list 80 artists that they wanted to feature in the exhibition, but after Bangdel’s passing in 2017, Kayastha was brought into cull the list down to a more manageable number. 

The curators finally settled on 37 artists, showcasing art styles from traditional paubha work to Mithila art, sculptures and abstract art. 

“We wanted to create a chronology of Nepali art,” said Kayastha, commenting on their curatorial process. 

The curators spent two months visiting artist studios and picking representative works. Most of the art comes from the studios of the artists themselves while some have been lent by private collectors like Prithvi Pande, Birendra Shahi, Prabhakar Shumsher and the Siddhartha Art Foundation. 

A few artworks were even commissioned for the exhibition. The artists represented in the exhibition range from Nepali modern art pioneers Lain Singh Bangdel, Laxman Shrestha and Shashi Shah to more contemporary artists like Manish Babu Mishra, Samundra Man Singh, Manish Harijan and Ragini Upadhyay.

One of the primary aims of the exhibition is to introduce an international audience to the variety of Nepali contemporary art. At the confluence of Western and Eastern Europe and the once-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna is no stranger to conflicting influences that lead to breakthroughs in art.  The city—which gave birth to the Secession movement and fostered some of the world’s most innovative artists like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele—is an ideal venue to showcase Nepali art to Europe and the wider world. But contemporary Viennese art does not deal with social issues in the way Nepali art seems to do, said Shicklgruber.  

“Nepal is known only for its ancient art and culture,” said Sagar SJB Rana, coordinator of the Project. “We want to change that and show the world our contemporary art.”  

A pre-exhibition of all the artwork to showcase in Vienna is currently on display at the Nepal Art Council, Babar Mahal, until December 21. 

Published: 13-12-2018 08:24

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