German rug specialist Jan Kath has opened a new gallery and showroom in Kathmandu, to showcase the craft and creative process behind its stunning pieces. Known as the Rug + Art Space, it’s the culmination of the company’s work in Nepal, where it has based part of its production since its debut in 1998.
Jan Kath in Kathmandu
Founder and creative director Jan Kath has been closely connected with the city since his early twenties, when he ‘got stranded’ in Kathmandu while living in Asia. A chance encounter with a family friend, who also happened to be a rug dealer, kickstarted what has become one of the world’s most successful and inventive rug brands. It’s a passion that runs in the family. ‘As the son of a carpet dealer, I grew up on carpets,’ says Kath. ‘My father taught me his knowledge and his feeling for quality and techniques.’
Nepal played a key role in the brand’s development and Kath’s own creative practice. ‘I became who I am today in Asia,’ he says. ‘Nepal has had a strong influence on me. My heart beats here. I feel connected to the people.’ Over the years, Kath has established a strong network of manufacturing locations where skilled craftspeople dye and weave natural yarns into his contemporary, intricate creations.
Based in Boudha, in the heart of the Great Boudhanath Stupa and Pashupatinath’s sacred temples district, the exhibition space was designed by German duo Jakob Gebert and Hanna Krüger. It aims to bring the craftsmanship to the fore, with a step-by-step showcase of the techniques that contribute to the creation of each piece. Here, visitors can experience a loom in action and observe the intricate skill that goes into the making of a rug. ‘We are dedicated to the materials we use: hand-combed and spun Tibetan highland wool, the finest silk and Nepalese nettle,’ says Kath. ‘People can touch the materials and see how they are worked into a carpet, knot by knot.’ Also part of the gallery’s display is Jan Kath’s material store and the process that goes into finishing each rug by hand.
Serving as showroom and gallery space, the location will combine Jan Kath rugs with curated displays by international artists. ‘[I wanted to avoid] the general approach of seeing Nepal frozen in tradition and folklore,’ says Kath, whose idea for the space is to show local folklore through a contemporary lens.
For the display, Gebert and Krüger created a kinetic installation. ‘We designed movable objects, furniture and fixtures for the showroom and offices, as well as a changeable exhibition architecture,’ they say. The exhibition displays were produced in Nepal using metal profiles that can be reassembled into different compositions as the gallery’s requirements evolve over time. Meanwhile, the installation featuring floating carpets turns the Jan Kath designs into an experiential display, complemented by a built-in knotting station.
The location itself has a special significance for Kath. ‘The stupa in Boudha was a magnet for the refugees from Tibet with whom the knotting culture came to Kathmandu; people settled here with their ancient craft,’ he says. ‘The Rug + Art Space is only a two-minute walk from the main entrance of this wonderful place. It is here that I started producing my rugs 25 years ago. This place is special, it is a place of power.’
Jan Kath Rug + Art Space
Tusal Boudha 6
A version of this story appears in the December 2023 Entertaining Issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today!
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Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.
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