Lain Singh Bangdel in New York
The exhibition is being held at the Yeh Art Gallery of St. John's University, and will bring together more than 25 of the artist’s works, focusing on his abstract style which was influenced by the start of his professional painting career in Paris in the 1960s.
Lain Singh Bangdel: Moon over Kathmandu is being curated by Owen Duffy, the Director of the Yeh Gallery, with the support of Bibhakar Shakya, chair of the Bangdel & Shakya Foundation and married to Lain Singh Bangdel’s daughter, Dina.
Duffy was a student of Dina Bangdel, and said that this is a personal project for him. Dina Bangdel died suddenly at age 53 in 2017.
“It occurred to me that there hasn’t been a museum exhibition outside Nepal focused on Lain’s work and this seemed like the right moment to look back at his contribution as a foremost modernist in Asia, and his impact on art history,” Duffy told Nepali Times
“What we are looking at through the show is how Lain arrived at abstraction, why he decided he needed to paint abstractly, and tracing the development of his interest in the mountain ranges that he encountered growing up in Darjeeling and have now come to strongly signify his homeland Nepal,” he added.
For Bibhakar Shakya the show is borne of a sense of even more personal responsibility. He was married to Dina Bangdel until her untimely demise four years ago, and reflected that he and Dina had always talked about organising an exhibition of her father’s works.
“It became a matter of urgency once Dina passed away,” said Bibhakar Shakya from Richmond in Virginia, where he is preparing for the exhibition. “It was almost as if I didn’t do it, it was never going to happen.”
The urgency is especially relevant now in light of the growing trend towards repatriation from Europe and North America of stolen holy objects from Nepal. Lain Singh Bangdel produced groundbreaking research on the Nepali art history, documented in Early Sculptures of Nepal (1982), 2500 Years of Nepalese Art (German Edition, 1985), Stolen Images of Nepal (1989), and Inventory of Stone Sculptures of the Kathmandu Valley (1991).
“At present, many Nepalis in Nepal and abroad do not know of Lain Singh Bangdel’s legacy, work and his contribution,” Shakya added. “Now seems like the perfect time to reintroduce him to the world and especially to the younger generation of art enthusiasts, historians and Nepalis.”
Read also: Lain's legacy, Sraddha Basnyat
This is echoed by Owen Duffy, who remarked that the study and development of modernism has been largely limited in Europe and the US, and the exhibition looks to reassess that.
“As an art historian with international focus and global interest, I believe that we should reconsider the history of modernism and what we show in our museums and galleries,” he said. “When you look at Lain’s output as a painter, novelist, art historian, preservationist and academician, he becomes a very important figure who has travelled through intellectual circles all around the world.”
The paintings at the New York exhibition have come from all over the world: the Bangdel residence in Kathmandu, Bibhakar Shakya’s home in Virginia, several have been borrowed from collectors in New Hampshire, Arizona, and from people who knew Lain Singh Bangdel. This is an extensive body of work but not an exhaustive collection of Bangdel’s prolific artwork. A lot of the paintings have not been exhibited before, and certainly not together.
The exhibition will take place from 27 January through 9 April 2022, and is primarily an academic and aesthetic exploration of Lain Singh’s œuvre, as opposed to a commercial gallery display.