Category Archives: England

‘If we don’t work together, we will see very dark times,’ says outgoing V&A director Martin Roth

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The Art Newspaper
by JULIA HALPERIN | 26 September 2016

Dozens of museum leaders from the US and China are gathering in New York this week to compare notes and brainstorm ways to promote cultural exchange between their two nations. The US-China Museum Summit, which kicks off today (until 28 September), is the third biannual meeting between the two groups and is co-organsed by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) and the Asia Society.

As the speakers at the summit revealed, cultural exchange is much easier said than done. In recent years, practical challenges, including costs, cultural differences and language barriers, have limited exhibition sharing between China and the US. A “marketplace” for exhibitions ready to travel between the US and China, first proposed in 2014, has proven difficult to get off the ground.

Meanwhile, the number of museums in China has exploded—and so has their appetite for travelling shows. Between 2011 and 2013, an average of one museum per day opened in the country, according to Pauline Willis, the director of the AFA. By 2020, China is expected to be home to 6,000 museums.

The V&A is one of the few Western institutions to develop a long-term partnership with a museum in China. In 2017, the V&A will open a gallery inside the Shekou Design Museum in Shenzhen. But this kind of collaboration was not easy to pull off, said Martin Roth, the outgoing director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. In his keynote address, Roth recounted small cultural misunderstandings that he encountered early on in his relationships with Chinese museums. “Do you go left or right entering an exhibition? Is red a lucky colour or a communist colour?” he asked. Continue reading

Leicester City: Listed building to get Buddhist mural

Artists' impression of a Leicester City mural for the side of the Newarke Houses MuseumImage copyrightLEICESTER CITY COUNCIL

Artists’ impression of a Leicester City mural for the side of the Newarke Houses MuseumImage copyrightLEICESTER CITY COUNCIL

BBC News
11 August 2016

The mural will feature Buddhist images, celebrating the Thai heritage of Leicester City’s owners

A Grade-II* listed building is to be temporarily decorated with a mural to celebrate Leicester City’s Premier League title win, despite opposition.

Historic England said it could “harm the appreciation and understanding” of the Newarke Houses Museum.

But the city council has approved placing the mural on the building for two years.

It is one of six pieces of art which the council has commissioned to celebrate the Foxes’ 5,000-1 success.

The mural, which features Buddhist images, will celebrate the Thai heritage of Leicester City’s owners.

The Foxes stunned the Premier League by winning the title by 10 points in May.

Councillor Ted Cassidy said: “The committee took into account the objections and views of Historic England and decided that on balance, this was acceptable for that particular part of the building.

“It may in fact encourage people to go to that side.”

Three murals have already been painted on to walls in the city to celebrate the title win.

Historic England had hoped the council would find a “less sensitive” building for the latest mural to be painted. Continue reading

Cloud Gate: making dance out of martial arts and meditation

Songs of the Wanderers performed by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan. Photograph: Yu Hui-hung

Songs of the Wanderers performed by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan. Photograph: Yu Hui-hung

The Cloud Gate dance company occupies a unique place in Taiwanese society and its founder has become a national treasure. Nicholas Wroe talks to Lin Hwai-min as he brings a signature work to the UK

Guardian
Nicholas Wroe
Saturday 23 April 2016 02.00 EDT

The Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan arrives at Sadler’s Wells next month to give one of the last performances of its signature work. Songs of the Wanderers opens with the solitary, still figure of a Buddhist monk standing under a spotlit stream of falling rice. The stage gradually fills with over three tonnes of golden coloured grains – especially shipped in from Taiwan – which form into deep drifts to become the mountains, rivers and desert through which dancers slowly enact the rituals of pilgrimage. Although it draws on Buddhism, the imagery also encompasses more universal readings and the performance is accompanied by the rhythmic chantings of a Georgian choir.

So it is intriguing to learn that this work, depicting a timeless spiritual quest for “asceticism and quietude”, is a characteristic offering from a company that emerged from one of the most turbulent periods of modern Asian geopolitics. For decades following the end of China’s civil war in 1949 the Taiwanese regime led by Chiang Kai-shek had claimed to be the legitimate government of all China, but international recognition gradually eroded and in 1971 it was expelled from the United Nations. Cloud Gate founder Lin Hwai-min was studying in the United States at the time and found himself returning home to an island in which a whole generation were suddenly trying to discover who they were. “There was a lot of energy in literature and the visual arts,” he says. “When I set up Cloud Gate [named after an ancient Chinese dance] we were the first professional dance company. We felt part of a movement in search of its roots. In one respect the mission of the company was to explore what it is to be Taiwanese, as we knew so little about our own home.”

 Wang Rong-yu in the part of the Monk in Songs of the Wanderers. Photograph: Yu Hui-hung

Wang Rong-yu in the part of the Monk in Songs of the Wanderers. Photograph: Yu Hui-hung

At the company’s new theatre, which opened last year on the outskirts of the capital Taipei, Lin gestures in the direction of the Chinese mainland, 110 miles across the Taiwan Straits. “What was important was over there”, he says. Well into the 80s Taiwanese children were taught about Beijing and the Great Wall and how long the Yangtze was. But, says Lin, “we had no idea about the rivers in Taiwan. It just wasn’t in the textbooks. Today you can go to a store and buy half a dozen books on the butterflies of Taiwan, but back then we had to explore for ourselves. City people travelled to the country to see the landscape, the farms, the rituals being carried out in front of the temples.” Continue reading

Lecture: An Archaeology of Tibetan Buddhism

MON, 2 MAY AT 16:00, GB, GB
An Archaeology of Tibetan Buddhism
By: Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, Division of Social Anthropology

FREE REGISTER

For most westerners, Buddhism is timeless, and Tibet remote and romantic. For the
historical Buddha, his last words remind us of the impermanence of all things. For the
archaeologist, however, the material expression of Buddhism on the Tibetan Plateau
offers insights into the transformation and evolution of Buddhist thought as it encounters
indigenous, pre-Buddhist conceptions of landscape and religion, borrowings of
ritual from Central and East Asia, and the changing political fortunes of the emerging
Tibetan empire.

WHEN
Monday, 2 May 2016 from 16:00 to 17:30 (BST)

WHERE
McDonald Institute Seminar Room – Downing Street . Cambridge. CB2 3ER GB

[link]

A colossal Chinese Buddha statue which has just gone on display at the British Museum

A photo of the vast marble statue of the Buddha Amitābha at London's British Museum Buddha Amitābha (Buddha of the Western Paradise) (585 CE) © The Trustees of the British Museum

A photo of the vast marble statue of the Buddha Amitābha at London’s British Museum
Buddha Amitābha (Buddha of the Western Paradise) (585 CE)
© The Trustees of the British Museum

By Culture24 Reporter | 03 March 2016 | Updated: 29 February 2016

Object of the Week: This week it’s a 1,400-year-old, 19-foot Buddha which has just taken up residence on the centre well of the North Stairs at the British Museum

The Amitābha Buddha is colossal. It stands 5.78 metres tall on a lotus base, and its hands, which are now lost, would have been raised palm-outward (the right one, in the Buddhist gesture of reassurance) and in the spirit of liberality (the left one – a gesture known as varada mudra).

An inscription on the plinth reveals its original location more than 1,400 years ago: Chongguang Temple, in what was then Hancui Village, set within the Hebei Province of Northern China.

The sculpture comes from the Sui dynasty (fifth year of the Kaihuang Era) © The Trustees of the British Museum

The sculpture comes from the Sui dynasty (fifth year of the Kaihuang Era)
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Conservators used in-situ scaffolding to examine the sharp relief carving, flat folds drapery and flat back of the Buddha, tending to it for the first time in more than 25 years. Their work means the inscription can be read for the first time, with 80 members of the Yi-yi – a Buddhist society popular during the northern dynasties – named on it.

The society also built two white marble bodhisattvas, one of which is now in Japan. The wood in the left arm of the Buddha, according to electron microscope scans, comes from the jujube tree, which has been widely cultivated for more than 4,000 years in China and is known for its edible, vitamin C-rich fruits.

A group of British collectors originally displayed the Buddha in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, hosted at the Royal Academy between November 28 1935 and March 7 1936 to meet growing international enthusiasm for art from China.

It had been sent to the Royal Academy by CT Loo, a prominent art dealer of Chinese origin, who gifted the Buddha to the Chinese Government. The British Museum received it as a donation in 1938.

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Take me to the cosmic vagina: inside Tibet’s secret tantric temple

 A detail from the murals in the private meditation chapel of the Lukhang Temple, in Lhasa, Tibet. They were painted c.1700 for the fifth Dalai Lama.

A detail from the murals in the private meditation chapel of the Lukhang Temple, in Lhasa, Tibet. They were painted c.1700 for the fifth Dalai Lama.

Lukhang temple is the Buddhist Sistine Chapel, full of stunning murals of body-hopping yogis and the vagina that gave birth to the world. It’s meant for the Dalai Lama’s eyes only – so how did a US photographer manage to share its secrets?

Emine Saner
@eminesaner

The Guardian
Tuesday 10 November 2015 10.12 EST

In the spring of 1986, Thomas Laird stood before the secret tantric paintings in the Lukhang temple of Lhasa, Tibet. The American photographer was one of the first westerners ever to enter, and the first to shoot inside this secret space created by the fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century – and reserved for the private meditation of his successors.

“I was stunned by the colours: pink and gold and white and lapis,” he says of the murals that cover its walls. There were yogis demonstrating poses, 84 tantric masters, Buddhas, waterfalls, forests, animals and a vast number of symbols he couldn’t quite fathom. He was dazzled: “That afternoon had a huge impact on me.”

Twenty years later, Laird stood in a hotel in California showing his life-sized pictures of the murals to the Dalai Lama himself. The 14th Dalai Lama was exiled in 1959, and he was seeing them for the very first time. Laird had photographed them, then meticulously collated around 100 images into vast recreations that showed every last detail. The Dalai Lama stood before them, then turned to Laird. “OK,” he said, “now I’ll give you the commentary,” proceeding to talk him through their meanings. “At that moment,” says Laird, “it was like he was right there in the Lukhang with me.”

 The Lukhang Temple, Lhasa, c.1936. Photograph: Frederick Spencer Chapman/Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

The Lukhang Temple, Lhasa, c.1936. Photograph: Frederick Spencer Chapman/Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

This is the Tibetan Sistine Chapel … the whole Buddhist view of the world, in paintings
This month, Laird will bring his images from inside the temple to London, where they will form the centrepiece of a new show at Wellcome Collection called Tibet’s Secret Temple. This is the Tibetan Sistine Chapel, explains Laird: “The Sistine Chapel was painted by a great artist, commissioned by a pope and it tells us everything from God creating man to the resurrection. The whole world, as Christians viewed it, are there in images – and that’s what’s happening in the Lukhang.” Continue reading

Welcome art show to feature images of tantric Buddhism from secret Tibet temple

One of the objects to be featured at Wellcome's Tibet's Secret Temple show.Wellcome Collection/courtesy Ian Baker

One of the objects to be featured at Wellcome’s Tibet’s Secret Temple show.Wellcome Collection/courtesy Ian Baker

International Business Times
By Jayalakshmi K
November 11, 2015 07:46 GMT

An exhibition of never before seen Buddhist tantric images of 17th century murals, scrolls and ritual artefacts from a secret Tibetan temple will be displayed in London from 19 November to 28 February, 2016. Shot by American photographer Thomas Laird, the images include yogic poses, 84 tantric masters, Buddhas, scenic depictions, symbols and what Laird hints as the ‘cosmic vagina’, a detail representing the start of the universe.

The secret Lukhang temple in Lhasa has been termed the Buddhist equivalent of the Sistine Chapel with its images explaining creation through the Buddhist eye. The objects totalling over 120 will be featured at the Wellcome Collection show titled Tibet’s Secret Temple. Three of the murals from the temple have been recreated by Laird as life-sized digital artworks that form the centrepiece of the exhibition, says Wellcome.

Laird was the first to shoot pictures in 1986 inside the hidden room in the temple created by the fifth Dalai Lama for the private meditation of his successors, reports the Guardian. The present Dalai Lama, 14th in the line, hadn’t seen the images till Laird showed them to him 20 years later.

The meaning of the images was then explained to Laird by the Dalai Lama. These include secret practices in tantric Buddhism like a yogi transferring his spirit into a naked couple having sex, or enlightenment portrayed by a tiny crystal surrounded by a rainbow.

Laird sees the collection as a “map of the universe” which he stumbled upon in the 80s when exploring the temple on a small island on a lake. Laird who had settled down in Nepal later moved back to the US to learn technology to make huge, high-resolution recreations of the murals. By piecing together hundreds of frames from different exposures and printing them on transparencies, he was able to create the detailed images.

The co-curator of the Tibet exhibition, Ruth Garde, hopes the murals will challenge western preconceptions about Buddhism. “You come to it thinking it’s quite serene, tranquil: deep breathing and that kind of thing,” she said. “Tantric Buddhism is very different – the more radical and advanced yoga techniques are quite dangerous.”

[link]