Remembering the Lost Sculptures of Kathmandu
Since the 1960s, thousands of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures have disappeared from Nepal’s public temples, shrines, courtyards, fountains, and fields. Prior to the thefts, nearly all of these sculptures were actively worshiped as living deities and their absence is deeply felt in their local communities.
In this project, paintings, interviews, and photographic documentation weave together narratives of these sacred spaces, exploring how people respond when religious art objects—that exist, not as commodities, but as vital living community participants—are physically removed.
Davis’ large-scale paintings bridge the present and past states of these sacred spaces by realistically depicting the sites as they look presently and then visually “repatriating” the stolen sculptures back into those sites with 23 karat gold. The use of gold provides a visual language revealing which sculptures have been stolen and references the commodification of the sacred through its associations with both wealth and divinity. Didactic panels accompany each painting, featuring historical images of the stolen sculptures, current photographs of the sites, information about the sculptures and any replicas, and excerpts of interviews with local elders, devotees, temple caretakers, and children. A website (rememberingthelost.com) accompanies the project, allowing viewers see a map of the sacred sites, and to search and sort a database of information and photographs of all known thefts.