Both editions of Kathmandu International Art Festival (KIAF) were the largest non-profit art exhibitions held in South Asia. The 2009 edition was widely received as a landmark event for Nepali arts. It featured 111 artists from 25 countries who exhibited for 12 days at 6 different venues. This inaugural edition was organized by Siddhartha Art Gallery (SAG) and focused on the theme of “Status of Women.” The event was inaugurated by Rashmila Shakya, former Kumari, who embodied the concerned theme. A 3-day symposium was organized by SAG to complement the visual component of the event. Mondriaan Foundation, a patron of the Festival, hailed the Festival as their highlight for the 2009 funding cycle.
In 2011, SAF was registered to become the official organizing body of the Festival. The 2012 edition was much larger in scope and scale than its predecessor. It featured works by 97 artists exhibited at over 16 venues over the course of a month. The works were sourced from an open call and selected by an international jury. Eminent artist Richard Long (UK) was recognized as the Artist Patron of the event. KIAF 2012 realized the following historical achievements:
– Use of unconventional spaces like the local zoo, trade fairs, renovated heritage complexes (Mulchowk, Patan Durbar Sqaure) and community squares brought the arts to newer audiences and communities and helped reach more than 480,000 people over the course of a month
– KIAF Collaborations lead to the publication of a national award-winning children’s book on climate change titled Prerana and Lalpila. The book was written by Buddhisagar Chapain (Nepal) and Rumana Hussein (Pakistan) and was illustrated by Adeel uz Zafar (Pakistan). In 2013, the book was donated and distributed to public schools in Nepal by Room to Read.
– First guided tour program in Nepal were initiated for the Festival. Through dedicated approaches, many schools were invited to visit the exhibition spaces and learn about the creations and their social messages
– An outdated Transit Treaty between India and Nepal was amended to allow the transport of Cambodian artist Leang Seckon’s installation ‘Naga.’ The amendment means Nepal can now transport goods originating from third countries to travel back via India. This has had countless economic benefits for the entire nation.
– Many KIAF Artists continued their connections to Nepal post-event. Artists like Gary Wornell (Finland) even instigated long-term projects on Kathmandu. Wornell recently opened an exhibition, Treasure of Nepal, in Finland and is launching the namesake book during Kathmandu Triennale 2017.