10 years in Nepal #2: An art evaluation.

What about getting some ideas before we talk about money?

This question – or rather outburst – came from Sophus during our kick-up session of Limbo Kathmandu. Sophus Ritto is a young and very talented Danish multi artist who has been a part of our life for years. We had teamed him up with one of our very good artist friends Aditya Aryal for a 100% open art project. No Agenda, No budget, No restrictions AT ALL. The only thing we had prepared were 3 different venues they could work, exhibit, perform or do whatever they wanted.

Rich country vs Poor country.
Rich culture vs Rich culture.

Being a rich kid from a culture that encourage initiative, collaboration & creativity Sophus is used to focus on ideas and/or purpose. For Aditya coming from a poor country almost everything is about money – to him and fellow artist friends the ideas come, when the money problem is solved….

Or at least – that’s how he thought things were.

Maybe our ideas don’t cost us anything – as Sophus continued.

The following night Aditya, Sophus and Thomas were roaming around town collecting junk that soon would become art.

Limbo Kathmandu is so far the creative peak of our 10 years involvement in the Kathmandu’s art and culture scene…. It showed the art scene that focusing on the idea is a more natural way to create something big – and that’s exactly what Limbo became. It wasn’t so much about Art Pieces – more about processes. About letting ideas and creativity be the driving force…

We love art and culture – and want to share our experience.

We are neither art professionals nor art collectors.

We love art and culture and have been involved in art projects in every imaginable ways since the mid 70s. As young activists distributing flyers and posters, as organizers of exhibitions, concerts, performances, as producers, as sponsors of all kinds of small and international events, as board members, but most important – as art and culture users. And we have a lot of art professional friends: Gallery owners, actors, musicians, lawyers, management, venue owners, producers etc.

So our involvement in the local artscene came naturally to us… somehow we just ended up among painters, musicians, writers, photographers, street-artist and other creative souls.

Since we have the lounge, a lot of white walls and people checking in and out everyday, we decided to make an exhibition. And with the KatJazz coming up we got a collection of original photo prints by Jan Person send down – portraits of Jazz Legends Nepal had never seen before in Nepal and probably never will.

Our debut!

5 guest only – and no sale at all

But we loved it ourselves!

The exhibition was a disaster – less that 5 people turned up for the opening, and with prices starting from 800 US (cheap!) we sold nothing. But we loved it ourselves – it looked amazing on all our walls and showed how well our lounge worked as a gallery.

We didn’t give up!

Until then building & setting up Tings had taken all of our time – we just hadn’t had a chance to research the local artscene.

We had of courses visited the galleries, but most of what we saw was boring, traditional and far from the energy, humor and aggression and other emotions you usually find in young artists work. Most of what we saw was exhibitions funded by Embassies, UN, EU and other well meaning organisations with no directions at all except for the political agenda of the day.

We knew the art was out there somewhere but not where… So we started looking.

The Big Foot Project that was all over Kathmandu

At that time we saw an amazing street artist almost everywhere in Kathmandu – or rather his or her works. Huge colorful Feet on funny looking characters were all over town. None of our friends new the person so I started asking around on Twitter, Facebook and a few street-art blogs.


Thomas had giving up finding the person, when he suddenly got a call: You are looking for an artist… a young Nepalese girl with english accent was at the other end. What a surprise – a female artist.

Bruno Levi was our breakthrough as a gallery!

Fantastic sale, lots of guests and huger media coverage.

We got our message out!

But he was wrong Arpana was Bruno Levy’s girlfriend – a French guy living in Manhattan was the artist behind the feet. We felt a bid stupid.

With all the feet taboos in the Hindu culture it could never be a local.

Our 1st art breakthrough.

We are on a mission – we want to help talented artists to get their art out. That’s why we don’t charge anything – neither rental for the space nor sales commission. We also cover all costs related to the openings that are more like small parties.

The artist has total freedom. The only criteria is that we – Annette, Thomas and Dorje – like what we see. When we do we get involved personally: we distribute flyers and posters, make websites, creates social platforms, set-up PR and all other important things you need for a successful exhibition.

Because we love art.

This is message is a bit complicated to get out – especially in a country like Nepal where governments are distributing money like dirt.

Bruno Levi helped ud! Or rather – his art did.

His exhibition became a success we didn’t expect and weren’t prepared for. Not only did we sell most his works. We got a huge and fantastic crowd of young Nepalese artist & creatives for the opening party together with the media. All was taken by surprise by our venue and all the red dots next to the paintings. So was we – without really planning it we got our message out!

It should take another 2 exhibitions to find Nepalese artists we liked.

The message was out – but still no local art. So we just kept making exhibition. The next one – HomeSickBlues with works from Danish friends Lemmerz, Bonde, Frandsen etc – was successful in terms of audience and media, But didn’t sell at all – too expensive.

Cosmic Music – a combined poetry and photo art event did!. Our friend and poet Yuyu RD Sharma did a joint Poetry Launch with fellow poet David Austell (US) live via Skype from NY. The first time that had been done in Nepal. Anne Lelong’s amazing Photo Art of Dancing Lamas sold above our expectations… Same with the media… thanks to the Skype gimmick we everywhere.

This was back in October 2012. We had shown a lot of international art that wouldn’t had reached Nepal without us, we had shown the art community that it was possible to do commercially successful art projects with a 100 % art focus – NO funds from Embassies and Organisations. Only our own passion, dedication and time had established Tings as an art venue – a big breakthrough to us!

From the opening of Poze’essed By Letters by Yann Chatelin. Another succesful event.

Our 2nd art breakthrough.

Karl Knapp w. Sudeep Balla at Limbo

In people’s eyes we were successful. We were of course happy – but we still had not achieved what we wanted. Making a difference.

Karl Knapp changed that. We had met him briefly at Jazz Up-Stairs and it was him who introduced us to his girlfriend Anne Lelong.

At the opening of Cosmic Music Thomas told him about our frustrations getting through to the young Nepalese artists.

I can help you with that!

It turned out that Karl was an art teacher at the university and knew all the students. He promised to get a group together and bring them to Tings.

A month later a group of very shy young kids entered our gate for an art talk: Aditya Arial, Hitmaan Gurung, Shraddha Shrestha, Sudeep Balla, Sheelasha Rajbhandari and a few others.

During our talk we got an insight to one of the mechanisms in the Kathmandu art would. When we asked the young artists what they really needed to express themselves through their art the answers was unanimous: Materials and a space to work from.

The support they get are shows and events funded by governments who typically brings a bag of money and a theme the artists have to visualize to get invited: Pollution, Corruption, Dalit Women, Trafficking or other political issues.

Can you imagine Christian Finne or Jon Stahn be told to do art about old people? we asked each other

Of course we couldn’t.

The young artist in front of us artists didn’t get a chance to express themselves through their art.

So no reason to complicate things. Our idea was to give the group of artists that turned up 100 % freedom to do what they wanted. And since no one had any idea about what to call the show all agreed on using the ‘dummy’ we used for the invite: NoNameNoThemeJustArt.

Finally! Young contemporary art at Tings

Creatively the exhibition was fantastic – and still one of the best we have had. BUT we didn’t sell a single piece which was a big disappointment to us – the 100 % freedom also included setting the prices – and they were too high. But as we say Every Cloud has a Silver lining. We had entered the local art scene and that was important.

Prasad was not an opening – it was a media event

All National Broadcasters, all important newspapers & magazines and hundreds of guests established us as a Nepalese art venue.

But as we say Every Cloud has a Silver lining. We had entered the local art scene and that was important.

The following event Prasad – A Manifestation of A generation – became our big break through. Not only for us. The opening and the media coverage was so massive that Art:Lab, their artists and the whole idea behind got established in an instant.

Prasad & YouCanImagineToo established us as a venue for local art

Why don’t you have a sponsor – the MD of Carlsberg who was at the opening asked us. Why do you pay for all these beer yourself?

Until then we had deliberately avoided sponsors. From our past we knew how attractive the art world is for brands. So we wanted to show the artists how attractive they and there art are by letting the sponsors coming to them – and they did. From then on Carlsberg became our event sponsor.

Imagine at Prasad blew us and Kathmandu away!

It couldn’t get better or bigger… until our YouCanImagineToo exhibition by Imagine aka Sneha Shrestha.

Not only was it our first solo exhibition. It was with a young and unknown female artist with power & attitude who shared Thomas love for hard core Hip-Hop.

YouCanImagineToo went absolutely crazy. One of Imagine’s most colorful works included a make over of our entrance – it exploded in peoples head when then entered! Opposite were the calm white-on-white and black-on-black canvases where you had to stay for a while and let your eyes relax to see the motive… The sales exceeded Prasad… a big surprise to the artscene, who didn’t expect that.

Imagine is now Artist in Residence in Boston with an impressing CV with exhibitions all over the world.

We had achieved what we wanted!

We can’t claim that have we changed the artscene – (which wasn’t our ambition by the way). We’re too small for that.

But through our exhibitions and culture events we have shown all involved what’s possible to do (and not to do). And what young artist in other countries do and how they do it.

And through our Electronic Jazzfestival Re:Conceptions of Jazz and Tuborg International Music Film Festival we tried to show what’s possible when you get right people with the right way of thinking involved.

Thomas started these festivals for one reason only: To show that once you have the right idea, the money will follow. He just did what young kids used to do back in 70s in Copenhagen. He got his own hands dirty, called people, got them involved etc. As expected things turned out exactly as they did back then. Once the idea and element took form, the sponsors entered the scene. Both festivals became huge successes.

Murray Kerr & Arpan Thapa in Copenhagen

Same with our Nepal Nightsthe one-day-Nepali-movie-event at Cinemateket in Copenhagen that – according to the Nepalese Ambassador in Denmark – became the biggest promotion of Nepalese Culture in Denmark ever. The 3 best movies from that year’s KIMFF festival with After Party. NO Freebies – all had to pay. More than 100 had to leave because the event sold out.

All important media covered the event – including Prime Time News with Arpan Thapa.

It was a 100 % commercial project. No involvement of Governments or Organisations. All happened with help our contacts and network. Ticket sales and sponsors covered the costs (including tickets to Arpan and Murray). And Thomas’ brother who sponsored hospitality.

But have we made a difference?

It’s impossible to give a straight yes/no answer. You never know what would have happened if we hadn’t  been involved.

But the process and the output from Limbo Kathmandu – showed us one thing.

That different cultures are not barriers preventing ideas: different cultures nurture them.

Just give them the right conditions. Sophus’ constant focus on the idea – and being a young artist himself – kick-started what we personally feel has been the most import art event in the 10 years we have been in Kathmandu.

So at least for 1 month, we made a difference 🙂

Coda: No money, No funny!

If you have managed to read this far there is one important thing you must know: We may have giving you the impression that all our projects doesn’t cost anything. They DO! You can’t create anything without money.

But the cost for all our events are close to nothing compared to the government funded events, we have witnessed in our years in Nepal. Projects that have removed the art scene’s focus away from the essential: ideas, creativity & spontaneity.

All costs have been funded by our small but well-run business in Lazimpat: Tings Kathmandu, 100 % locally managed.

This sustainable business model is a completely different approach to charity – initiated and funded by two persons only. But persons who have only done what they know about and have been willing to get personally involved.


Read why we left Copenhagen to do what we do


Because it’s a different way of travelling & living – and we love people.

Love & Compassion

Annette & Thomas

This is the first of 3 evaluations – read:
10 years in Nepal #1 – Its’ time to evaluate