Tibet House has curated several major exhibitions of Tibetan art, mainly Thangkas, statues and handicrafts. Thangkas are scrolls with paintings of Buddhas, of deities or teachers and mandalas. They are used as objects of veneration and meditation often seen in temples, monasteries and private homes. The art of Thangka painting is a unique Tibetan contribution to the history of art. Exhibitions provide an opportunity to display some of the holdings of the Museum to a wider audience in India and abroad.
Cultural Heritage of Tibet
In 1967, an exhibition of 250 Tibetan artefacts primarily drawn from the collection of the Tibet House Museum was held at Bukyo Dendo Kyokai, Japan in collaboration with the Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper. The exhibition portrayed rich cultural heritage of Tibet through the arts of painting, sculpture, xylography and pottery.
Tibetan Art Commemorating the Gandhi Centenary
An exhibition of Tibetan art and handicrafts was held at Rabindra Bhavan in New Delhi to commemorate the Gandhi Centenary in 1969. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible“. Thus the exhibition celebrated the historic links between India and Tibet through Thangkas depicting the lives of the Maha Siddhas, great teachers of Buddhism, many of whom were Indian. Thangkas depicting the principal events of Lord Buddha’s life and his former lives as recounted in the Jataka Tales, were also displayed.The handicrafts in the exhibit were made by Tibetan refugee craftspersons working in Darjeeling, Dharamsala, Dalhousie, Shimla, Mussoorie, Mysore and in Orissa.
Tibet: The part and the Whole
This photo exhibition in the Tibet House Museum in 1990 was the result of three visits to Tibet by Prof. Jaroslav Poncar, photographer and Professor of Photo Engineering at the Polytechnic in Cologne, Germany. The exhibits featured photos from antique panoramic cameras as well as conventional photographic techniques. The pictures evoked the landscape, the mountains, the people of Tibet.
Tibetan Paintings on the Incarnations of the Panchen Lama
In 1995, thirteen Thangkas depicting the incarnations of the Panchen Lama were displayed at India International Centre in New Delhi. The images were carved on wood blocks during the time of the 7th Dalai Lama (1708-1757) and painted in vivid mineral colours.
Compassion and Reincarnation in Tibetan Art
In 1995-96, an exhibition of Thangkas on the key theme compassion and reincarnation travelled to three countries in Europe, viz. Switzerland, Germany and Austria. The exhibition contained thirty-one Thangkas representing ‘The Twelve Acts of the Buddha’, the ‘Unique Tradition’, the ‘Divinities of Compassion’, the ‘Incarnations of Compassion’, and ‘The Dalai Lama Tradition’.
Footprints of the Buddha: Exhibition of Contemporary Tibetan Art
In 1996, Tibet House displayed an exhibition of paintings by Gonkar Gyatso, a young Tibetan artist. Prof. B.C. Sanyal inaugurated the exhibition. Gonkar’s style derives from his own visionary interpretation of Buddhism: while incorporating some of the canons of Thangka painting, he cuts through the ornamentation and accretion of time and tradition and presents the spontaneous essence and dynamism of Buddhist iconographic forms.
Thangkas: A Living Tradition
In 1997, an exhibition of Tibetan Thangkas on the theme ‘A Living Tradition’ was shown at India International Centre. Displaying traditional skills, a group of artists from Dharamsala created awareness of the continuity of this Tibetan art.
Biddhist Heritage of the western Himalayas-An Architectural Overview
In 1999 a photo-exhibition was jointly organised with INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage). The exhibition highlighted monastic architectural practices in the Western Himalayan Region which are expressions of Tibetan culture and show the inextricable relationship between Buddhism and the landscape of the region. Commissioned by INTACH, Jyoti and Janhwij Sharma compiled a list of buildings that have architectural, historical, cultural or religious significance. The intention of this inventory is to identify buildings suitable for conservation and to prioritise those that promptly need actions. Many temples and monasteries in this area are in a state of near collapse.
Thangka Exhibition at Roorkee
In 2000 the University of Roorkee invited Tibet House to an International Conference on ‘Buddhist Philosophy and Contemporary Issues’. His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessed the inaugural session of the conference and a special exhibition of Thangka paintings from Tibet House.
Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama: Impressions of an Indian Artist
In 2001, the watercolours of Shri Kanwal Krishna who had the rare opportunity to capture on canvas the enthronement ceremony of the 14th Dalai Lama in October 1939 were exhibited at Tibet House. The exhibition showcased works that are in private collections and at the Lower Saxonian State-cum- University Library at Goettingen, Germany. The paintings and photographs serve today as an important first hand record of a world gone by, of Tibetan customs, rituals, ceremonies and landscape. Kanwal Krishna had been commissioned by the Government of Bihar to join Pandit Rahula Sankrityayan’s expedition in 1938 to catalogue the discovered manuscripts, to photograph art objects and sketch landscapes. Parallel to the exhibition the eminent German indologist Dr.Gustav Roth delivered a lecture on ‘The Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama: Impressions of an Indian Artist’ at India International Centre. Dr. Roth’s presentation recreated the history of Shri Kanwal Krishna’s travels from the films sent to him by his artist friend.
Encountering Buddhism in Mongolia
Photographer Barbara Hind’s eloquent photographs were on exhibit at India International Centre Annexe from August 24 to 30, 2002. The exhibition showcased Hind’s work over a period of seven years during which she travelled to Mongolia and developed close ties with the monasteries and nunneries around Ulaanbaator. Through her pictures of lay worshippers praying unhindered, the education of novices and the construction of new monasteries, she documents the resurrection of Buddhist faith in contemporary Mongolia.
Living Tibetan Buddhism
To coincide with the Kalachakra Initiation 2002 in Graz, Austria, Tibet House held an exhibition ‘Living Tibetan Buddhism: A Photographic Journey’. Inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on October 12, 2002 the exhibition was visited by the participants at the Kalachakra teachings. The exhibition showcased about 80 photos by Munich-based author, photographer and film-maker Bruno Baumann, whose extensive travel and deep involvement with the subject has been translated into a vivid account of Tibetan life. The photos dealt with five sub-themes: the monastic tradition; the religious life of laymen; the relationship between monks and lay people; pilgrimages; and Tibetan medicine, astrology and sacred art.
As part of the Festival of Sacred Chanting and Singing to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the installation and consecration of the Buddha Statue, an exhibition entitled Sadhanamala was shown in the Art Gallery of India International Centre in 2003. This exhibition showcased the work of Mr. Tapan Chakrabarty, who uses the ancient medium of palm leaves to create beautiful images of Buddhist deities. By bending and engraving the palm leaf, he is able to create powerful forms, some of them three-dimensional , based on an ancient classical collection of Sanskrit texts known as the Sadhanamala. Although the artist, who lives and works in Kolkata, uses these texts as the basis for his works, they also uniquely reflect his own dedication to the Buddhist ideals of infinite wisdom and compassion.