Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts, the Siddhartha Arts Foundation, and the Rubin Museum of Art are honored to announce that the first-ever Nepal Pavilion will debut at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2022.
Tales of Muted Spirits – Dispersed Threads – Twisted Shangri-La will be curated by artists Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung, and will feature the work of artist Tsherin Sherpa.
The inaugural Nepal Pavilion will be presented at Sant’Anna Project Space One, located on Fondamenta S. Anna in the area between the Arsenale and Giardini – the two main venues of La Biennale Arte.
Appointed by Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the project is co-commissioned by the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts and the Siddhartha Arts Foundation, with lead global support from the Rubin Museum of Art.
Trained in the art of thangka painting, Tsherin Sherpa (born in Kathmandu, 1968) is regarded today as one of Nepal’s foremost contemporary artists. For the Biennale Arte 2022, he will collaborate with artists across the country to draw upon materials from a shared history and incorporate accounts encoded in oral cultures, woven languages, and quotidian rituals to implicate an intersectional and intertwined past that problematizes contradictory conceptualizations of Nepal as well as the broader Himalayan region.
The highlands of Asia have always emanated a sense of mystique, sacredness, and remoteness. However, fluidity, mobility, and an exchange of knowledge have flourished between communities for centuries. Often these complexities get obfuscated through a “Shangri-La” effect, which persists in popular imaginations. This fetishization triggers paradoxical representations of Himalayan communities as primitive, yet wise; lacking historical accounts, yet rich in spiritual wisdom; sturdy physically, yet bereft materially.
Curators Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung emphasize: “In contradiction to a mythical utopia –shrouded in happiness, longevity, and bliss – is the reality of an intricately interconnected peoples who have repeatedly experienced displacement, loss, and the insurmountable task of reconstituting their lives. From the 19th to 20th centuries many Indigenous groups in Nepal were purposefully excluded and oppressed through state mechanisms that benefited both regional and colonial powers. When opportunity arose to exploit their art and livelihood through international trade, it created a scenario that essentialized and packaged numerous art practices into consumable goods, while simultaneously eroding their spiritual and vernacular meanings for the people who produce them.”
Artist Tsherin Sherpa adds: “International understanding of Nepali art remains plagued by a Western conceptualization of the Himalayan region: a pervasive, romanticized vision that frames Nepal as static, pure and untouched by time and modernity. We need to create a space to reflect and re-evaluate these biases.”
Nepal’s participation at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia resonates with recent initiatives that foster a global visibility for Nepal’s burgeoning contemporary art scene, such efforts include the Nepal Art Now exhibition at the Weltmuseum Wien in 2019 and the ongoing Kathmandu Triennale 2077.
Jorrit Britschgi, Executive Director of the Rubin Museum of Art, said: “The inaugural Nepal Pavilion will provide artists with an invaluable international platform to showcase their work whilst positioning the country to contribute to a broader narrative on contemporary art that moves away from a Eurocentric art history and discourse. The pavilion will also help to raise the profile of Nepal as one of the most vibrant countries for the production, promotion and presentation of contemporary art.”
The Biennale Arte 2022 will run from April 23 through November 27, 2022.