Even though some of the art works are rooted in Nepali culture and traditions, they use modern forms of oil and canvas, installations and sculptures to address contemporary issues like exclusion, social justice, gender, conflict, the 2015 earthquakes, the commodification of religion, migration and the environment. In fact, many of the works are not just aesthetic or spiritual in their function but are imbued with deep socio-political commentary.
The inaugural ceremony of the exhibition at the Weltmuseum featured the Himalayan Quartet, led by Nepali composer Rupak Kumar Shahisamuda, which played several fusion pieces based on popular Nepali folk songs. The Weltmuseum is located in Vienna’s Hofburg, the winter palace of the Hapsburgs that became infamous for a speech given by Adolf Hitler from one of its balconies after the Anschluss (forced unification of Germany and Austria) in 1938.
Nepal’s traditional carvings and paintings by anonymous masters that adorn temples and monuments have been worshipped over the centuries, and are still regarded as embodiments of the divine. However, they came to be regarded as ‘art’ after being stolen and exhibited in museums in Europe and America, and were detached from their original spiritual value.
The contemporary Nepali art on exhibit here is defined not by its style, but by paintings, sculptures and installations that were created in the past 50 years, with diverse themes ranging from devotional, social commentary, abstract and modern.
Most of the artists have shunned ‘Western’ techniques, and gone global to develop a unique grammar of their own. Says Schicklgruber: “Modernism had Paris, London and New York as its traditional centres of art. In the postmodernist age other cities have joined this exclusive club. One of them is Kathmandu.”
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