For over twenty years, the Tibet House has operated with the function of preserving Tibetan art and culture. Prior to Tibet's illegal occupation and invasion in the mid-1900's, the country was virtually isolated, shunning outsiders.
After His Holiness the Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile in India in 1959, the matter of establishing a government-in exile, and providing for the thousands of Tibetan refugees who followed him, was of utmost importance. Preserving art, religion, culture and music was another necessary feat. During Mao's cultural revolution, over 6,000 monasteries were looted and destroyed, decimating centuries-old art, and artifacts. The Tibet House has been the global leader in this important task
In 1974, His Holiness requested Venerable Sangye Yeshe, a monk trained in the Menris tradition of thangka, to begin teaching this traditional art to a new generation in exile. These first classes were at the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives, a complex in lower Dharamsala that houses government-in-exile.
The school was free, and produced many great artists. Unfortunately, in the 90s, due to expansion, the school was forced to close. Several of the students banded together, and looked for an auxiliary space; they wanted this tradition to continue, and Sangye Yeshe himself put up the seed money to facilitate this. The result was the Institute of Tibetan Thangka Art.
Nestled in Gamru Village, a quiet residential area in Dharamsala, 25 students attend the free, five-year program. Sadly, in March 2009, Sangye Yeshe was killed in a fire in his home. Two of Sangye Yeshe's most senior students have taken their place as teachers.
This week, the Tibet House will be opening the exhibit "The Menris Tradition of Tibetan Thangka Art: Traditional Paintings by the New Generation in Exile."
The show includes over forty pieces by Sangye Yeshe's students, and the new students of the Institute of Tibetan Thangka Art. A truly 'sustainable' show, proceeds from sales not only benefit the Tibet House, but also the Institute itself, a registered non-profit in India. It is rare for contemporary traditional art to be shown in the US, where much attention has been paid to emerging modern Tibetan artists.
The show opens on January 20th, and runs through March 2nd. Tibet House is located at 22 W. 15th Street in New York City. To learn more about the show, visit the Tibet House site.
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