A common platform with regular art exhibitions, movie nights, a beer garden, and live music, Bikalpa Art Centre caters to the local and international artistic community.
Located in a secluded corner in the middle of Pulchowk’s buzzing urban life, Bikalpa is very easily distinguishable from the surrounding city. Its ambience, reminiscent of a tranquil cottage, is not what you would expect a place beside a highway in Lalitpur to have. But Bikalpa is full of surprises—swings instead of your usual chairs on some tables, five adorable cats, a performance stage where you would find adroit performers with nightingale vocals hosting a fashionable crowd on Friday evenings.
Saroj Mahato, the director and co-founder of Bikalpa, says, “Bikalpa translates to alternative, and that’s what we are—an alternative space for young creative minds to showcase their contemporary art that you likely wouldn’t find elsewhere in the city.”
Mahato got the idea for Bikalpa when he was in college in Seoul, where one would find Cafes with art exhibitions within and cafes that were more than just cafes or art galleries that were more than simply art galleries. He added that this was especially helpful because art galleries, specifically those that didn’t have more traditional art forms to showcase, were hard to run, and that’s where the cafe comes in.
With the exhibitions bringing people to the cafe and the cafe maintaining revenues, Bikalpa’s art gallery is self-sustaining. They also hold movie nights, reading circles, residential workshops, and office workspaces. Not just that, they also promote other creative spaces within the city on its notice board right by the entrance.
Mahato got the idea in 2009, came back to Nepal in 2012 and by the end of 2013, Bikalpa was ready to be inaugurated. It initially also had a built-in communal production studio which was later shut down.
The art gallery is right by Bikalpa’s entrance—a tiny hall with the same zero watt lighting as outside, white walls and a navy blue floor. The type of art it showcases is unorthodox from what you would find in other museums and art galleries in the city. Take Sir Frog, for example. It is a canvas painting of a frog in a suit.
Bikalpa also acts as a medium for young artists to sell their art and as a catalyst to discover their interests within the field. Bikalpa is very active and holds two exhibitions a month on average, apart from Wednesday movie nights and Friday music nights.
The zero-watt bulb aesthetic, the affable crowd, the rhythmically swaying trees, the smooth akasa furniture, the pebbled floor, the swings, the cats. All of these contribute to making Bikalpa’s ambience serene and perfect for hangouts with friends, networking with new people or just enjoying Friday evenings after a long, tedious week with (or without) a sip of beer at their beer garden.
Photos- Sonabi Bhattarai