AMRIT KARKI, Rectangle, 2017, mural at Kirtipur, Kathmandu. Courtesy the artist and Kathmandu Triennale.


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Still recovering from the disastrous earthquakes of 2015, Nepal experienced dramatic monsoon flooding and landslides in its southern plains in August. While the government dispatched newly appointed cultural attachès to Nepali embassies worldwide in 2016, the country’s official arts promotion remains conservative.

The Nepal Association of Fine Arts, run by the Department of Arts and Crafts at Kathmandu’s Royal Nepal Academy, operates the National Birendra Art Museum, which houses a permanent collection, exhibition space, a library and artist studios.

Several private institutions comprise Kathmandu’s contemporary art scene. The nongovernmental, nonprofit Nepal Art Council participated in the India Art Fair (2/2–5), taking works by 13 artists to New Delhi. Artudio – Centre for Visual Arts conducts regular art and photography workshops. Photo.circle also holds regular workshops and showcases, and operates the digital photo archive Nepal Picture Library. The Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre had a quiet year, as one of its founders, Sangeeta Thapa, who is also director of the Siddhartha Arts Foundation, focused her energies on the Kathmandu Triennale.

The first Kathmandu Triennale (3/24–4/9) was rebranded from the Kathmandu International Art Festival. Under the theme “The City, My Studio / The City, My Life,” it featured more than 60 international and Nepali artists including Amrit Karki and Hit Man Gurung, and was organized by the Kathmandu-based Siddhartha Arts Foundation and curated by Philippe Van Cauteren, director of Ghent’s SMAK – Museum of Contemporary Art.

Also directed by Thapa, Siddhartha Art Gallery is the primary commercial gallery. Its exhibition lineup included a presentation of photography, video and textile installations by Ryan Elisabeth Reid (5/19–23) that culminated with a performance during the Kathmandu Triennale, and emerging artist Bhavika Dugar’s lithographs and woodcut prints that evoke Nepal’s multiculturalism (7/30–8/10).

In Lalitpur, Gallery Mcube exhibited works by its seventh set of artists in residence (6/23–30), which included Jupiter Pradhan and Kapil Mani Dixit. Bikalpa Art Center presented installations by Aayush Shrestha, Jupiter Pradhan and Utpal Jha (8/8–9/2). Nonprofit Lasanaa hosted film screenings and artist talks, as well as an exhibition rooted in outreach with Dalit families (8/22–9/4). Sattya Media Arts Collective featured paintings by German street artist Niklas Schwede (10/25–11/1).

Abroad, in New York, Kathmandu-born Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol and filmmaker Tenzin Tsetan Choklay presented the documentary Bringing Tibet Home (2013)—which follows the artist as he smuggles 35,000 pounds of Tibetan soil into Dharamsala—in “Lucid Dreams and Distant Visions: South Asian Art in the Diaspora” (6/27–8/6) at the Asia Society Museum. Hit Man Gurung and Sheelasha Rajbhandari were artists in residence at Hong Kong’s Para Site (7/17–8/4). Subas Tamang’s installation I Want to Die in My Own House (2017), which references Nepali families’ division due to migration, will be restaged at the Srihatta-Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park, Bangladesh’s first major contemporary art center. Photo.circle will organize the third edition of Photo Kathmandu in October. 

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