Nepalese Artist Lain Singh Bangdel Paintings on Exhibit at Asia Society

HOUSTON: Asia Society Texas (AST) announces its newest exhibition, Lain Singh Bangdel: Moon Over Kathmandu, featuring the abstract modernist work of polymath, novelist, art historian, preservationist, academician, and painter, Lain Singh Bangdel. Made up of approximately 20 works, the exhibition is the first solo show by a Nepali artist at any Asia Society site, and highlights Bangdel’s pioneering pursuit of abstraction that would help define a modern Nepal – shaping the history of art in South Asia. Lain Singh Bangdel: Moon Over Kathmandu is FREE and open to the public beginning Wednesday, November 30th through Sunday, April 30, 2023. Born on a tea plantation in Darjeeling, India, into a community of Nepali migrant workers, Bangdel remained culturally connected to his homeland of Nepal until his first visit in 1961.

The collection of works on view explores how his signature vocabulary of abstraction crystallized upon his homecoming to Nepal at the behest of King Mahendra and B.P. Koirala, the country’s first democratically elected prime minister. Informed by the architecture of South Asian cities like Kolkata and Kathmandu, as well as the exalted peaks of the ever-present Himalayas, Bangdel’s abstract paintings like Moon over Kathmandu (1962) and Abstract II (1969) advanced his belief in the sublime and rugged majesty of the world’s tallest mountain range. As such, the barrier that once separated Bangdel from Nepal became the subject that most connected him to his homeland, nourishing his artistic sensibility.

In the years leading up to his triumphant return to Nepal, Bangdel lived a remarkable life, embedding himself with intellectual circles in Independence-era Kolkata, London, and Paris. In 1939, he left the tea fields of Darjeeling to enroll in Kolkata’s noted Government College of Art & Craft. Here, Bangdel studied with Zainul Abedin, who would become one of Bangladesh’s foremost modern artists and an important documentarian of the Bengal Famine (1943-45), a cataclysmic event that would affect Bangdel’s art and writing for decades. After graduating, Bangdel found work as a commercial artist at the Kolkata-based firm D.J. Keymer, where he formed a lifelong friendship with acclaimed Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

During this period, Bangdel produced paintings of everyday life in Bengal, including Kolkata’s impoverished suburbs, and focused his attention on writing in Nepali, publishing several novels, and founding the literary journal Prabhat (Dawn).

In 1952, Bangdel left Kolkata to further his education and training in London and Paris. In connecting with the Asian diaspora’s artistic community, he hosted dinners in his Paris flat, where he engaged with the noted Indian modernists M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, and Paritosh Sen. Eager to study the work of European modernists and old masters alike, Bangdel traveled extensively throughout Europe while publishing Nepali-language books and travelogues for audiences in his homeland. His experiments in abstract painting began in Europe, as seen in the exhibition’s cubist-inflected Transformation (1956), as well as Himalaya (1954), an ethereal imagining of Bangdel’s homeland. In 1961, after a formal request from King Mahendra, Bangdel and his wife left London for Nepal. The experience cemented his desire to, as Koirala implored him in a 1957 letter, “organize [Nepal’s] aesthetic movement.” This call to action would ultimately lead to his 1962 solo exhibition in Nepal, his first in the country.
Moon over Kathmandu thus brings to life the many notable contributions of Bangdel to the global history of modern art.

Lain Singh Bangdel: Moon Over Kathmandu Fast Facts:
• Dates: Wednesday, November 30, 2022 – Sunday, April 30, 2023
• Admission: FREE
• Hours: Wednesday–Friday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
• Location: Asia Society Texas, 1370 Southmore Blvd, Houston, TX, 77004 (in the Museum District)
• More info: