Getting art out therePerhaps the most striking aspect of the Art Market is the ease that people feel as they browse through the wide range of sellers
Art, broadly speaking, can be scary to the people. This is because institutions that display art—museum, galleries, even stately public libraries, like the Keshar Library—often house art in grand situations, making art objects untouchable, sometimes even unrelatable. For the sake of simplicity and clarity, I will give you an example: many of the best known private and public galleries and museums in Kathmandu, like the Park Gallery, Siddhartha Art Gallery, Patan Museum, Image Ark, and even the Nepal Art Council in Babarmahal, sometimes suffer from a severe lack of footfall. People are intimidated by these sites; they wonder if they visited, must they also buy. Sometimes, anything aside from the most conventional figurative art is considered unfathomable. No matter how
sophisticated, there are always people who are curious, yet wary, and sometimes downright terrified to freely wander around what most curators would ideally want to promote as welcoming spaces.
The situation is not exclusive to Kathmandu—a relatively modern metropolis for those with means. This city, as with most urban centers, inadvertently or not, due to lack of planning, stratifies people according to their access to education, social class, and cultural tastes, all things that directly affect one’s reactions to art. In fact, it is important to remember that “high” art intimidates people everywhere. One only has to look at the consternation on faces when performers break out into interpretive dance in the street in Manhattan to get an inkling of how much conceptual art requires background and, of course, the right spaces.
Which brings me to the monthly Art Market at The Yellow House in Sanepa, which usually occurs (barring earthquakes) on the first Saturday of every month, and started from the beginning of 2015. The market itself is spread along the terraced levels that lead down into The Yellow House’s garden, with stall spaces provided to sellers at Rs300, complete with large, shady umbrellas and chairs. The market is a collaborative effort hosted by The Yellow House, a bed and breakfast that is owned and run by Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati, who is also one of the founders of photo.circle—a platform established in 2007 that supports new photography in Nepal—and Image Ark, a Patan-based agency that runs and houses a number of creative enterprises, including a gallery space, run by Marie Ange Sylvain-Holmgren, who is a documentary filmmaker herself, just as Kakshapati, too, is a photographer.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Art Market is the ease that people feel as they browse through the wide range of sellers (most vendors of a certain standard are welcome), which include literary magazines like LaLit; individual artists who have solo stalls (Erina Tamrakar, Bidhata KC, Asha Dangol, to name just a few); collectives such as Artree formed by artists like Hitman Gurung and Sheelasha Rajbhandary; organisations like Sattya, a media arts collective; and as one might expect, both photo.circle and Image Ark are well represented.
Bringing commerce into art is always problematic: as one artist friend recently, very bluntly, told me, artists need to eat, and even
if they were to forsake that, they need materials and space to make art.
In a country where art-related grants and residencies are few and far between, the Art Market, as the name clearly implies, allows for people to become comfortable in browsing and buying art and design items of many different kinds.
You could walk away one fine Saturday afternoon with any number of postcards, paper puppets, handcrafted jewelry, design oriented cooler-than-school stickers, canvases of fine art, and, like this lucky writer, a pen and ink drawing of Patan Durbar Square, whose price I cannot mention for fear of coming across as a depraved bargain hunter (for the record, I didn’t even attempt to negotiate).
The Art Market’s organisers have made sure that the people who come to buy and sell at the venue feel comfortable. Children run around picking up interesting looking objects, nobody glares at them for making too much noise, the outdoor venue allowing an ease that is rare in such situations. With the mix of high and low (by low I do not mean bad quality, just pop art and design mixed alongside the “finer” arts of painting and drawing) people feel comfortable spending just a few hundred rupees here and there, acquiring what attracts their eyes, free of judgement. Perhaps a first step towards collecting and hanging art in and around their homes.
As I mentioned before, art is important to different people for different reasons, for those familiar and unfamiliar with art, regardless, the Art Market is an opportunity to dabble in collecting, or just curious
looking. It is an achievement for the arts scene in Nepal, a platform for buyers and sellers minus the nonsense and the angst that can sometimes come in between.
As a short footnote, the Art Market this month will take place next Saturday, on June 20, from 3 pm to
7 pm, as a fundraising event for running art-related therapies and educational events for earthquake victims. The importance of art for traumatised children (and adults) has been repeatedly emphasised in the media by medical professionals as well as by organisations that specialise in these kinds of rehabilitation. This type of art-related fund-raising event seems an appropriate way to both acknowledge as well as restart “normal” life, which includes going back to art-making, for commercial or therapeutic purposes—all the while working towards helping those who have been sorely affected and continuing efforts that now must reach beyond relief and towards healing.