In the absence of any government support, the struggle to find sponsors and patronage was the biggest challenge that we face. But looking back now, everything has come together organically and we are hoping in 2020 things will look much better,” says Sangeeta Thapa, chair of Siddhartha Arts Foundation who are organising the inaugural edition of Kathmandu Triennale.
The ball will set rolling from March 24 until April 9, and the capital city of Nepal will open itself to art lovers from around the globe. Titled, ‘The City: My Studio / The City: My Life’, the exhibition includes over 48 artists creating new works, with a considerable percentage representing Nepal. International selections have been made on artists’ capacity to develop their work in Kathmandu within a limited time frame prior to the exhibition, and also on their commitment to engage in capacity building for Nepal’s art scene.
“Since we didn’t have much money, we decided to safe costs of flying in works by international artists and instead asking them to create the works in Kathmandu itself,” says Sangeeta.
“The selected artists have the capacity to create and realise with almost nothing poetical (sometimes political) propositions that embrace their identity and the place they work in,” she adds.
Curated by Philippe Van Cauteren, artistic director of S.M.A.K. (Museum for Contemporary Art, Ghent, and Belgium), the event will host approximately 50 artists from about 25 countries. “The theme of the Triennale will be a catalyst for a contemporary reflection on the relationship between art, the city and its heritage,” says Sangeeta, adding the exhibition is dedicated to the people who lost their lives in the earthquake that hit Central Nepal on 25 April 2015.
“The title of the Triennale reflects the strong and complex interaction between art and life in this city. The studio, as the symbolic locus for the artistic practice, is exchanged for the city. If one looks at the art history of the last few centuries, one sees that avant-garde movements or artistic innovations have always taken place in cities,” she says.
The exhibition is spread across four venues — Patan Museum, Siddhartha Arts Gallery, Taragaon Museum and Nepal Art Council, and creative geniuses like Alice Fox, Amrit Karki, Ang Tshering Sherpa, Anno Dijkstra, Ashmina Ranjit, Bart Lodewijks, Belu Simion Fainaru, Birendra Pratap Singh, Bhuwan Thapa, Bidhata and Mithu Sen are participating in the event.
In addition to this, independent exhibitions by institutional and individual partners from Qatar, Bangladesh, UK, Finland, Poland, and Australia are also being featured. The programme includes series of pre-event ‘encounters’ such as workshops, master-classes, and other means of educational outreach.
“For months prior to the opening, says Sangeeta, “different organisations and collectives have been working on a full-scale outreach programme to children and youngsters at schools in Kathmandu. The exhibition and the participating artists have been the starting point for numerous workshops and encounters. Thanks to these efforts, about 1500 children have taken part in workshops related to art and the city” she adds.