Patan in PatnaNepal Art Council showcased Nepali creativity at the Bihar Museum Biennale
A centuries-old tradition of cultural exchange between northern India and Kathmandu Valley got continuity recently with Nepal Art Council exhibiting ancient and contemporary art at the Bihar Museum Biennale in Patna.
Kathmandu Valley, the Mithila Kingdom and Buddhist sacred sites of Bihar have an intertwined history that is reflected in close affinity of their culture and art. Which could be why the 205 artworks by 68 Nepali artists in the Patna biennale have been so popular among visitors here.
The arts of Nepal with their multi-fold expressions have blended engineering with art to create structures that incorporate all forms of art holistically.
The skill and practice were initially passed down through family traditions, but in time influenced many more than just the core practicing community.
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Nepal got another opportunity to showcase its art in the largest display outside the country in Patna with an exhibition titled ‘Nepal, Where the Gods Reside’.
The focus of the exhibition was the centrally placed colourful Pancha Buddha and Asta Mangala floor Mandala. Many visitors bent down to touch the mandala, thinking it to be a painting.
The interest and appreciation of the visitors, established artists and curators from India and abroad was immense. Alka Pande, the chief curator of the Biennale said the Nepal exhibition was a 'show-stopper'.
This exhibition encompassed a wide range of genres reflecting Nepali creativity throughout history right to the present day. Artistic production in Nepal is a living heritage, where creators draw inspiration from spiritual, philosophical traditions and iconographic sources before giving free rein to their imagination.
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These artworks through their intricate detail evoke a sense of sacred beauty and serve various purposes, including veneration, enhancing spiritual aura, and adding aesthetic value to secular spaces.
The exhibition also impressed upon visitors the vastness of Nepal's syncretic spiritual atmosphere, as the abode of deities. The artworks ranged from the formless to myriad incarnations and manifestations of the divine, showcased through traditional and contemporary paintings, straw art, wood and metal statues made using lost wax and repoussé techniques, filigree with semi-precious stone inlay, and ceramics.
In the last decade, Nepali art has got an international reach. Many artists have settled abroad and made a name for themselves. Others exhibit their works worldwide. NAC itself has taken Nepali art to three editions of the India Art Fair, and in 2019 it co-curated 'Nepal Art Now' with 100 works at the Weltmuseum, Vienna. This exhibition was equally popular and was extended for two more months.
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The city of Patna has a College of Art and Craft established in 1939, and its streets are replete with traditional Madhubani art as well as thematic contemporary drawings and paintings, mostly providing social messages related to environment conservation.
This second edition of the Bihar Museum Biennale 2023 was inaugurated by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on 7 August and had exhibits from Thailand, Panama, Costa Rica, Italy, Russia and from other Indian museums as well.
This generates a two-fold advantage to both the locals, who get acquainted to the artist tends of the world, while the domestic and international visitors witness the glory of the ancient Indian polity as well as the exquisite artforms from the pre-historic times till that of India's independence, in the museum's permanent galleries.
The foundation day of Bihar Museum coincided with the inauguration and showcased the folk art of Padma Shree-awarded artists from Bihar and launched ‘Together We Art’, an exhibition of G20 member and guest countries. The exhibition will be in Patna till 7 October. The world class Bihar Museum is the largest museum of central and South-Asia, and the first post-colonial state museum of India, showcasing historical artefacts from the early civilisation up to 1764 as well as folk and contemporary art forms.
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Swosti Rajbhandari Kayastha is Curator of the Nepal Art Council.