KATHMANDU, Jan 1: The year 2021 for the art fraternity was hopeful, compared to the year 2020. After the prohibitory orders imposed to curb COVID-19 were lifted, art galleries in Kathmandu reopened with various exhibitions. Various events such as workshops and open platforms were organized, instigating hope in the Nepali art scenario.
However, Nepal lost veteran artists like Shanker Singh Suwal, Ek Ram Singh, Rajkumar Shakya and Uttam Nepali in the year 2021. Needless to say, they made immense contributions to the development of Nepali art and their demise has created a void in the art field.
Artist Erina Tamrakar, on their demise, said, “I was frustrated and shocked due to the demise of such great artists. Though the year 2020 was a very productive year for me as an artist, the year 2021 could not be so, as I was not able to create anything new because of COVID. But in terms of exhibitions and shows, the year 2021 was hopeful.”
The exhibitions that were organized in galleries like Siddhartha Art Gallery, Classic Gallery, Nepal Art Council, Mcube Gallery, Bodhisattva Gallery, among others, displayed themes related to cultural, social, environmental and political issues. Likewise, the opening of Kathmandu Art House which is the part of Museum of Modern Art (MONA) was also a highlight of the year 2021. E-Arts also initiated open studios at four different places and conducted the Himalayan Art Festival which was not organized in 2020 due to COVID. “It is an immense boost for artists like us after lockdown and that too from a private level,” added Erina.
Artist Neera Joshi represented Nepal in the XIIIth Florence Biennale, Fortezza Da Basso, Italy held on October 23 which was sponsored by Pratima Pandé, Honorary Consul General of Italy in Kathmandu and Siddhartha Arts Foundation. The Florence Biennale is one of the most important international contemporary art exhibitions in Florence and is regarded as an outstanding global event.
Artist Subash Tamang’s solo exhibition 'Kaiten' at Siddhartha Art Gallery was one of the memorable exhibitions in 2021. It dealt with socio-political issues on how the Tamang community during the Rana rule in Nepal was oppressed and exploited.
About the exhibition, Sangeeta Thapa, director of Siddhartha Art Gallery, shared, “If it hasn’t been in the exhibition, we won’t be able to get the information on the Tamang community. It helped to understand indigenous people and politics.”
Similarly, the exhibition, 'Tale of a City', group exhibition by Abhishek Shah, Anil Ranjit, Ashesh Dangol, Jagdish Upadhyay, Rupesh Man Singh, Sharmila Shrestha, Sujan Dangol and Jattadhari Bhajan Khala too was held in grandeur fashion, where the exhibition dealt with artists’ reflection on their experiences with the city on celebrating life and cultural heritage.
“This year most of the exhibitions were focused on culture and there wasn’t any exhibition which represented new generation artists. These new generation artists are more into digital art and animation. In those terms, nothing new has been showcased,” opined artist/art writer Saroj Bajracharya.
Another exhibition that created a buzz was ‘Where the wild things are’ by a family of artists-- Gopal Kalapremi Shrestha, Yamuna Shrestha, and Shushank Shrestha -- who showcased their diverse body of ceramic art at Siddhartha Gallery.
Artist Sangee Shrestha's ‘Sambeg’ at Mcube Gallery too was an outstanding exhibition in 2021 where she came up with her solo exhibition after a gap of more than a decade.
Then, a group exhibition ‘Hamro Pahilo Paila’ by 22 BFA graduate students from Lalit Kala Campus became a reflection on new generation artists’ work. 'Nepali Art: Beyond the border' organized by Nepalian Art at the Taragaon Museum was a striking exhibition due to the conceptual artworks by 10 Nepali artists.
‘The Exhibition: Compassion and Healing Through Taras’ at Bodhisattva Gallery was also one of a kind exhibition that was held in 2021 with a purpose of healing during the time of COVID. Talking about the pace of galleries in 2021, artist and art critic, Mukesh Malla expressed, “Looking at the present condition, the galleries are running at their own pace. But there is nothing new in terms of exhibition.”
According to him, young generation artists are trying their best to make their viewers aware but they too need to have in-depth research. He added, “The artists have not been able to create discourse and the galleries have not been able to reach the public. Until art reaches the common people, it won’t be able to create impact.”
Agreeing on not having any impactful change in the art scene, art writer/ artist Madan Chitrakar shared, “Though the art field was active in the year 2021, there weren’t any radical changes and everything has been continuing as it has been.”