Kathmandu showcases traditional and contemporary Nepali art with the Nepal Art Museum’s first art biennale

- through Henry Oudin

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Kathmandu opens the doors of Nepalese art to the world with the country's first modern art biennial, which features more than 100 works by 80 living artists in traditional and contemporary styles. Entitled: Kathmandu Art Biennale: Spiritual Edition, the biennale is held at the Museum of Nepali Art (MoNA), in the heart of the Nepalese capital. It was officially launched on January 18 with a reception for international delegates from the artistic, academic and Buddhist worlds and invited ambassadors in Kathmandu. The Deputy Mayor of Kathmandu, Ms. Sunita Dangol, also came to visit the event and the artworks and installations on display. It will last until April 18, 2024.

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MoNA is located on the picturesque grounds of Kathmandu Guest House (KGH), one of the largest and best-known hotels in the heart of Thamel, the famous nightlife, restaurant, shopping and coffee culture area of Kathmandu.

It is the first privately sponsored art event in the Himalayan nation and, unlike government-funded museums and galleries, it aims to bring together contemporary and traditional art in a dialogue about Nepali artists. The biennial takes place in two separate wings of the KGH: at MoNA itself, a spacious basement museum that Sakya transformed into a parking lot, and at the Kathmandu Art House, where selected artists have installations in individual curated rooms by the MoNA team.

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MoNA opens a new avenue of art appreciation in Kathmandu, leveraging the considerable talents and creativity of local artists with a professional team of curators and coordinators to educate not only the global community, but also the public Nepalese, on the heritage and artistic wealth of the country. . The artists include some of the country's greatest creative minds, including Kiran Manadhar, considered the father of contemporary Nepali art with studios in France and Germany, Samundra Man Singh Shrestha, a prominent exponent of the "new traditional school ”, and many more.

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Founding Director of MoNA and owner of KGH Hotel Group, Mr. Rajan Sakya, hopes that visitors will appreciate how underexposed Nepali artists are compared to their international counterparts. “My love for art comes from my love for artists, because they are the creators of good and beautiful things in our world,” he told delegates gathered on the 18th, alongside the artists he had invited to contribute to the biennial. He also said spirituality was an appropriate theme for the inaugural biennial since art itself is a spiritual endeavor and Kathmandu and Nepal have always been associated with spiritual matters in the popular imagination. He noted: “When you dedicate your life to something greater than yourself for the good of the community and humanity: which that’s spirituality for me.

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The conservation was led by Ursula Manandhar, head of research at MoNA, and a small team of curators. She told BDG: “In the sacred realms of the divine, our daily lives often obscure the meaning of divinity. The Kathmandu Art Biennale serves as a gateway, inviting us to rediscover our spiritual essence through the transformative language of art.

MoNA director Shaguni Singh Sakya, a specialist in Nepali art, told Buddhadoor Global in an interview that even contemporary Nepali art draws on vast spiritual resources, from Hindu iconography and folkloric elements to Beloved Buddhist figures like Tara, Dipankara and Manjushri. She hopes the biennial, the first of its kind, can serve as a springboard for more sophisticated discussions about Nepali art history, critical analysis and how the country and society have influenced artistic production.

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Rasna Shrestha, Head of Sales and Marketing at MoNA and Director of Kathmandu Art House, told BDG: “The Kathmandu Art Biennale marks a milestone as the first private sector-led art event in Nepal. With a dedicated team, this spiritually themed Biennale offers diverse perspectives on spirituality through diverse artistic genres and meticulous curation. It has been an honor to serve as a co-curator, contributing to the historical tapestry of the Nepali art scene. Personally, being a passionate painter myself, this opportunity allowed me to broaden my artistic horizons by selecting meaningful paintings for this memorable occasion.

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At the heart of the biennial is a question Sakya and her team hope to ask everyone: what does spirituality mean to someone personally, whether an art lover, a local Nepali citizen or of a foreign visitor to Kathmandu? This is an extremely private question, but the MoNA team hopes that Nepal's renowned artists can help craft part of the answer for each individual researcher.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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