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Kathmandu South Asia’s Newest Art Stop

04/04 19:45 - Kathmandu South Asia’s Newest Art Stop
When India Art Fair had begun in New Delhi a decade ago, the organizers had hoped that the launch of the first international art fair in the subcontinent would spawn similar events in the rest of the region. Over the course of time, it did. The subcontinent now has international-scale art activities almost throughout the year with events in Kochi, Dhaka, Colombo and other cities of South Asia.The latest to join the club is the Kathmandu Triennale, whose first edition runs through April 9 in the picturesque capital of Nepal. It is organized by the Siddhartha Arts Foundation (SAF) of Kathmandu and the S.M.A.K. (Museum of Contemporary Art), Ghent, Belgium, and is supported by the Saraf Foundation. As the event gradually unfolds, integrating the creative community of Nepal more solidly with the global art fraternity, Sangeeta Thapa, co-founder and director of SAF speaks to Blouin Artinfo on various aspects of Kathmandu Triennale. Edited excerpts:Could you look back at the 2009 and 2012 editions of the Kathmandu International Art Festival (KIAF) and share the journey that helped shape the ongoing Triennale? The two editions of KIAF in 2009 and 2012 certainly paved the way for the Triennale — however, this edition is unlike the two editions as Nepali artists were provided a stipend to create artworks and international artists flew in to create works locally. This created a frenzy of last-minute work with installations and the schedule of intense programming that we had created.It is the support from the local art fraternity which has inspired us to move ahead. When the first edition ended, a Nepali artist shared that the festival had positively impacted her art practice. The idea of dreaming big hit home and situating Kathmandu as an international art hub united everyone. The scale of KIAF had garnered many patrons but then in 2015, the earthquake and the blockade happened and businesses were severely affected – we lost the support of some of our old patrons and connoisseurs, but forged alliances with new patrons. It is interesting to note that during the Triennale, international curators flew in to select the works of Nepali artists for their own curated platforms/showcases. This has helped create a buzz about the Kathmandu Triennale. However, when this Triennale ends so does the novelty factor, so we need to be savvy about how we pitch the next Triennale.         There has been an increasing presence of art from Nepal in India Art Fair. Do you aim to, and if yes, do you have a plan for greater integration of the Nepal art scene with the broader South Asian art scene for more visibility within the region? I have visited most editions of the India Art Fair and I do think it is an amazing event with galleries from all over the world participating and showcasing the works of old masters and young voices. And though I would like to participate in the Art Fair, I have been held back as I have been immersed in organizing KIAF or the Triennale. However, I am glad to see that Nepal Art Council (NAC) has showcased the works of the artists I love, whose careers received impetus with the organizations we run, whether it is the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Centre or the Siddhartha Art Gallery. It is fantastic that NAC has gone on to provide the artists a venue where the international gaze and market is present.As a South Asian, I have always tried to incorporate the works of South Asian artists in our events. Despite the fact that we receive no government funding and are struggling with budgetary constraints, we had made it our institutional priority to include artists from the region — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. However, there has to be a reciprocity of vision and mission for us to continue with the South Asian dialogue.This time round, the Triennale included artists from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. We definitely need to cast our net wider in the subcontinent to embrace artists from Bhutan and the Maldives as well.    What is the single most important objective of Kathmandu Triennale? The Triennale is driven by the mission to place Nepal or the city of Kathmandu on the global art map and serve as a hub for national and international art practitioners. Unlike India and China, where the art market is robust, Nepal’s economic situation is fragile to say the least. So for now, our endeavor cannot be about the market, it has to be about place making, about establishing Kathmandu as a city for the artist’s studio, as a nerve point for artistic exchange and as a platform where the works of Nepali artists are highlighted and nurtured.We are still in the throes of the Triennale. When all the impact is measured and the studies are done we will be able to chart the course of the next Triennale.We will also need to decide on the theme of the Triennale as each edition is designed around a critical socio-political subject of global relevance. Having Philippe Van Cauteren (artistic director, SMAK (Museum for Contemporary Art), Ghent, Belgium) on board as curator and mentor was a game changer for all of us here and we will be seeking his counsel for 2020 too.For details visit, http://kt.artmandu.org/about/...


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