The Art of Preservation

The capital’s newest museum is an art in itself, maintaining the finest balance between modernity and the travails of preserving antiquity.

I have been telling anybody willing to listen, that their Kathmandu experience is not complete without a trip to the newly opened Tara Gaon Museum. The assertion, I admit, is met with initial skepticism. Museums in Nepal don’t particularly draw inspired sell-out crowds. Yet, that has not deterred an ambitious project to break from that culture. And I am playing my part; telling anybody willing to listen, why this new museum is worth thronging to.

Tucked quietly away from the bustling streets of Boudha, amidst the sprawling Hyatt Regency grounds, Tara Gaon Museum has recently opened its doors to the public. The Tara Gaon Complex, because of its unique architecture and design, has for decades captured the imagination of the city. Now, through the rigorous preservation efforts of the Saraf Foundation, it has morphed into a vibrant space offering a unique experience. 

The pull of the Tara Gaon Museum is two-fold. Firstly, it houses a museum dedicated to preserving the work of expatriates who flooded the country in the 60’s and 70’s and beyond. As the Hippie counter-culture grew in the West, thousands of disillusioned young travelers made their way to the far reaches of the East, including Nepal that had until then shied away from the gaze of the world. Many of them stayed behind to continue documenting the novel sights and culture they were discovering here.  Today Tara Gaon Museum’s seven buildings are dedicated to preserving photographs, maps, literature and architectural designs of some pre-eminent émigrés including Mary S. Slusser, Kevin Bubriski, Leonhard Stramitz, Jórg Schmeisser among others. 

 Tara Gaon Complex is also an art in itself. Designed by the renowned Austrian architect Carl Pruscha in 1971, the complex has been described by many as the first modern building of Nepal. Pruscha, who lived in Nepal for ten years working on various projects for the United Nations, was deeply inspired by Nepali lifestyle and architecture. It was these influences that he strove to emulate when he was asked to design the Tara Gaon complex. From the vaulted ceilings, to the reoccurring circles, squares and triangles of the Thangka, these buildings though avant garde, have something hauntingly familiar and stirringly spiritual about them. 

Whether you are a history buff or an architectural enthusiast, the Tara Gaon Museum is sure to enthrall you. For the others, the complex also houses a library, a cozy café, curio shops, a gallery and several amphitheatres and conference rooms. It is only a matter of time before the museum attracts a plethora of artists and art lovers, revelers of modernity and worshipers of antiquity alike. Go find out for yourself, while the waiting lines are short and the entrance blessedly free!