Tsherin Sherpa: Tales of Muted Spirits – Dispersed Threads – Twisted Shangri-La

Tsherin Sherpa: Tales of Muted Spirits – Dispersed Threads – Twisted Shangri-La

Nepal Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Sixwasnine Design.

February 24, 2022
Tsherin Sherpa
Tales of Muted Spirits – Dispersed Threads – Twisted Shangri-La
April 23–November 27, 2022
Nepal Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
Sant’Anna Project Space One
Castello 994
Instagram / Facebook

The first-ever Nepal Pavilion will debut at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. Tales of Muted Spirits – Dispersed Threads – Twisted Shangri-La will be curated by artists Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung, and will feature the works of artist Tsherin Sherpa. 

Appointed by Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the project is co-commissioned by the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts and the Siddhartha Arts Foundation, with lead global support from the Rubin Museum of Art.

Trained in the art of  thangka painting, Tsherin Sherpa is regarded today as one of Nepal’s foremost contemporary artists. He will collaborate with artists across the country to draw upon materials from a shared history and incorporate accounts encoded in oral cultures, woven languages, and quotidian rituals to implicate an intersectional and intertwined past that problematizes contradictory conceptualizations of Nepal as well as the broader Himalayan region.

The highlands of Asia have always emanated a sense of mystique, sacredness, and remoteness. However, fluidity, mobility, and an exchange of knowledge have flourished between communities for centuries. Often these complexities get obfuscated through a “Shangri-La” effect, which persists in popular imaginations. This fetishization triggers paradoxical representations of Himalayan communities as primitive, yet wise; lacking historical accounts, yet rich in spiritual wisdom; sturdy physically, yet bereft materially. “International understanding of Nepali art remains plagued by a Western conceptualization of the Himalayan region: a pervasive, romanticized vision that frames Nepal as static, pure and untouched by time and modernity,” said Sherpa. “We need to create a space to reflect and re-evaluate these biases.”

Curators Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung emphasize, “In contradiction to a mythical utopia–shrouded in happiness, longevity, and bliss–is the reality of an intricately interconnected peoples who have repeatedly experienced displacement, loss, and the insurmountable task of reconstituting their lives. From the 19th to 20th centuries many Indigenous groups in Nepal were purposefully excluded and oppressed through state mechanisms that benefited both regional and colonial powers. When opportunity arose to exploit their art and livelihood through international trade, it created a scenario that essentialized and packaged numerous art practices into consumable goods, while simultaneously eroding their spiritual and vernacular meanings for the people who produce them.” 

Jorrit Britschgi, Executive Director of the Rubin Museum of Art, adds, “The inaugural Nepal Pavilion will provide artists with an invaluable international platform to showcase their work whilst positioning the country to contribute to a broader narrative on contemporary art that moves away from a Eurocentric art history and discourse. The pavilion will also help to raise the profile of Nepal as one of the most vibrant countries for the production, promotion and presentation of contemporary art.”

Tsherin Sherpa
Sherpa was born in Kathmandu in 1968, where he currently resides. He was trained in thangka painting by his father Master Urgen Dorje, eventually drawing on this vocabulary to create artworks that incorporate Buddhist iconography and pop culture references. His works offer an interplay and tension between sacred/secular, traditional/contemporary, settlement/movement. Sherpa’s practice stems from his personal experiences within the Himalayan Diaspora as well as the nomadic history of Himalayan peoples. His experimentations with visual languages adapt, reimagine, and reappropriate identities, symbols, colors, and gestures to surpass their chronological and cultural constrictions.

He has been a part of Yokohama Triennale (2020); Yinchuan Biennale (2018); Kathmandu Triennale (2017); Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane  (2015-16); and Dhaka Art Summit (2014). Sherpa has also exhibited at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2019); Rubin Museum of Art (2019); Asian Art Museum,San Francisco (2019); Weltmuseum Wien (2019); Kunstmuseum Bochum (2018); Berkeley Art Museum (2018). His works are in the collections of Victoria & Albert Museum; Rubin Museum of Art; Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; and World Museum, Liverpool. In 2018 he undertook a residency at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; and in February 2022 the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will present his first museum retrospective. Sherpa is represented by Rossi & Rossi.

Sheelasha Rajbhandari & Hit Man Gurung
Rajbhandari’s longitudinal research repositions quotidian and plural narratives, by weaving folktales, oral histories, and performative rituals as a juxtaposition to conventional historiography. Her practice is rooted in the experiences of women and seeks to confront how female agency and corporeality become contested political sites for contemporary nation-states. Her installations and works have been presented at Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2022); the travelling exhibition A  beast, a god and a line (2018–20); Weltmuseum Wien (2019); Serendipity Arts Festival, Goa (2017); and Kathmandu Triennale (2017).

Gurung’s diverse media of works are concerned with some of the most pressing political, economic, and cultural phenomena transforming Nepal’s physical and societal landscapes. Particularly addressing the country’s decade long People’s War, several years of unstable governments, and the impact all of this has had on the personal and professional lives of Nepali citizens. Gurung infuses his paintings, documentary photos, videos, performances and installations with political conviction and personal poetry. He has participated in exhibitions at SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin (2020); Artspace Sydney (2019); Yinchuan Biennale (2016); Para Site, Hong Kong (2016); Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane (2015–16). 

Their collective, Artree Nepal, has been a part of Dhaka Art Summit (2020) and Biennale of Sydney (2020). They are both co-curators of the Kathmandu Triennale 2077 and 12 Baishakh-Post Earthquake Community Art Project.


Sandrine Milet: T +1 (212) 620-5000 x228, smilet [​at​] rubinmuseum.org 
Darrell Rocha: T +1 (347) 479-3919, drocha [​at​] brunswickgroup.com 
Anya Brochier: T +1 (347) 740-9754, abrochier [​at​] brunswickgroup.co

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Nepal Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
February 24, 2022

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