An Artsy Taste of Nepal

April 11, 2016 , by Sewa Bhattarai, Leave your thoughts
An Artsy Taste of Nepal » My Dreams Mag
India’s capital Delhi was an art sketchbook or rather a playground while hosting the seventh edition of India Art Fair in 2015. The aura of art was spilling out of the exhibition grounds to the whole capital city through artworks displayed from dozens of prominent galleries and collaborative events around the city. Nepali artists Bidhata KC, Hitman Gurung and Asha Dangol, who were in attendance of these events, were very much impressed with the exhibits. But they were also a little sad that Nepal was not represented officially in such a large forum.

This year, for the first time, a group of Nepali artists officially represented Nepal in the fair. The eighth edition of India Art fair held from January 28-31 this year had participation from more than 90 galleries. Among them was Nepal Art Council as a part of the special section for South Asian Art. Curated by art historian Dina Bangdel, Nepal’s collection showcased works on the theme “Metamorphosis” from seven artists, Asha Dangol, Bidhata KC, Hitman Gurung, Silasha Rajbhandari, Samundra Man Singh Shrestha, Manish Harijan and Birendra Praja.

“It is South Asia’s largest platform for artists as well as institutions, and Nepal’s institutions had never been represented in this fair. Last year we had a dream of participating in this fair, and this year we responded to their open call with a proposal. Through art, we wanted to show Nepal post earthquake scenario,” explains Bangdel, coordinator of the Nepal team.

She elaborates that they wanted to represent artists from different generations, from established to emerging and talented ones, and that it was very difficult to select just seven. But all the hard work seems to have paid off for the artists who have come back with various positive impressions of the show, and also with the feeling of pride at having represented contemporary Nepali art at the exhibition.

Traditional artist Samundra Man Singh had displayed three paintings at the fair, related to earthwork, to art theft, and life. He says that he had a lot to learn from the management of an art exhibition of such a huge scale.

“The space where all the artworks were displayed was huge, but once you went inside, it looked like a gallery, not like an open space,” he says. He liked how they made the best use of spaces even in huge scale. The partitions, lighting, everything was managed to put the paintings at the center, to show the painting off to its best effect. “I got a lot of ideas about how to present and highlight paintings from this fair,” Singh added.

For Bidhata KC, who displayed four works based on her recent trip to Mustang, her participation was about introducing the world to the contemporary arts of Nepal. “Nepal’s traditional art is well known all over the world,” she says, “but very few people even know that there is a thriving contemporary art scene in Nepal.”

When they were showcasing their art at the fair, some people came to their stall and said that they like the tea and pashmina from Nepal. “People automatically relate these products to Nepal, they do not know about our contemporary art, the kind of art that represents society today. This fair was an opportunity to tell the world that it exists!” says KC.

On the other hand, KC was also happy about the fact that through the artworks of seven artists, the exhibits told the world where Nepali contemporary art is today and where it is going. Although the works of only seven artists were displayed in the fair, it has impacted the entire art fraternity of Nepal. After this, KC says that she expects some new doors to open for contemporary Nepali art in the international art market. “Our work was seen by several international collectors, dealers, curators. And some of them may remember us for the future,” she adds. In addition to that, KC came back confident about the fact that the contemporary art of Nepal is as good as international art.

Another artist Asha Dangol echoes with KC and emphasizes that international exposure is very important for the recognition of Nepal in the world art market. “Only through gradual exposure and networking can Nepali art gain recognition in the world market. We cannot make connections with international artists and curators just by having exhibitions in Nepal. These kinds of opportunities support a working artist in many ways,” he says. On top of that, Dangol was also excited to have had the opportunity to see the works of other senior international artists, which is a very important learning experience for any working artist according to him.

Coordinator Bangdel shares that Nepali artists didn’t just come back impressed from the fair, they were also successful in returning the same favor to the diverse patrons of the art fair. According to her, the booth for Nepal Art Council generated a lot of interest, as well as praise.

“Our booth was interesting because apart from wonderful visual art, we had installation art by Silasha Rajbhandari and Manish Harijan. We also had performance art since Bidhata KC’s paintings did not arrive on time, so she decided for a live performance on how murals are painted in the white washed walls of Mustang,” she says.

Bangdel says that they had expected the exhibition to do well, but it exceeded even their expectations. “While a lot of the other artwork was static, ours was dynamic. Content wise, it was very political and relevant, which added to its attraction,” she says adding, “it was such an important learning opportunity for the artists themselves. We were glad we did not miss it. It was important for us not just to showcase the art but also give a collective experience to the artists.”

The artists, as well as Nepal Art Council feel that they have taken the further steps into the international networking through this fair, which they strongly hope will be followed by other artists and institutions in the future. Moreover, it was an overall enriching experience, a perfect amalgamation of learning and sharing of ideas in international contemporary art scene.

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