Milan Rai is a Nepalese Artist (started as a painter) living and working in Kathmandu.
His early works consisted figurative and abstract expressionism. Upon winning the 1st prize as a self-taught artist in India in 2007, He did a solo exhibition at Park gallery the same year. As he started seeing the limitations in each layers of gallery system, he moved away from the confines to interact with those who might not go to museums or galleries, including those aren’t characteristically part of “art audiences,”
Moving freely between arrays of expression, he began collaborating with musicians, poets, designers in a range of medias and enactments. On various occasions, he tried to integrate art into public realm. However, the authorities were uninformed about the benefits that art can bring into the city. Nor they permit a location to install some of his ideas. In response to that, He initiated urban art interventions without their consent.
Year 2012, he launched the white butterflies project to make art accessible to all. Consequently, he began noticing neglected places, fallen trees and public behavior within these shared spaces. He placed same white butterflies on 1200 trees marked to be felled for road widening. He uploaded those worrying images on social media and began organizing a youth led movement to impact the policies toward the local environment. Their collective effort led to the revision of existing plans saving 25% of the trees. Milan’s social art practice started budding from there.
He facilitated the production and distribution of thousands of white butterfly’s cutouts. People began requesting for these White Butterflies and started spreading globally. This form of sharing led to invitations from arts organizations abroad. He eluded from the idea of authorship leaving its ownership to people and its meaning open for interpretation. In 2016 he was invited as visiting artist (SAI) Harvard University to share his experiences with the faculty.
As an artist coming from a developing country, He saw staggering difference between old and new.The rapid urbanization came with pronounced problems, threatening the cultural structures, environment and city aesthetics.In 2017, He stood in the polluted through-fares wearing an antique WWII gas mask, and posted these images on social media to provoke the severity of air pollution and underlying lack of enthusiasm and care.His environmental advocacy led him to the significantly shrunk green areas. He urged the city planners to rethink public spaces. Unsurprisingly, He was no exception to the bureaucratic hassles. His commitment to impart change was firmed even more. His resistance combined with creative stance rendered these inquiries into possibilities. This is where a vision for the environmental art work began to take shape.
To consider art more broadly and incorporate creative solutions in urban development framework. He organized tree plantations event reforming it as a participatory art and thereby began working with the communities, concerned citizens and city agencies. After 21 months of relentless pursuit, he got the Mayor’s support that helped to construct new relationship with public official’s. On August, 2019 he was invited by the Mayor to advise on the designs and creative place making. He facilitated open design process involving experts and the communities in the process of place making. Milan has recently completed a pocket park project in the city.
Milan founded VRIKSHA - a collective of artists, gardeners, designers, farmers, scientists, environmental designers, landscape architects and climate minded people. A dedicated team working with city agencies, stake holders, communities to preserve and revitalize underused vacant plots into green spaces and parks.He is keen to bring back the native species to re-wild city and broaden the reach of urban ecology.