National Gallery of Bulgaria Hosts Exhibition of Himalayan Buddhist Art
SOFIA—A unique exhibition of Buddhist art from the Himalayas has opened at the National Gallery of Bulgaria comprising of works from the National Gallery’s own collection, along with exhibits from the Historical Museum – Dimitrovgrad and the private collections of photographer and writer Nikolay Genov and painter Dr. Lyudmil Veselinov.
The exhibition charts an exciting journey through the mystical worlds of the Himalayas and acquaints the visitor with images of enlightenment that have the power to awaken the human spirit. Works at the National Gallery include statues from India, Mongolia, and Tibet, while the Historical Museum – Dimitrovgrad presents part of its collection of Tibetan art donated in 2011 by the then-ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Bulgaria. Artifacts from the collections of Nikolay Genov and Dr. Lyudmil Veselinov include Buddhist icons, ritual objects, and illustrated manuscripts from Mongolia and Tibet. The exposition also includes photographs by Teodor Malchiev in Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Tibet.
Buddhist art is a remarkable expression of the cultures that have developed over the centuries in and around the Himalayan mountain range that incorporates the Tibetan Plateau, Nepal, Bhutan, and the northern reaches of India and Pakistan. Neighboring geographic areas, such as China, Buryatia, Mongolia, southern Siberia, Tuva, and northern Myanmar, also bear the influences of Himalayan culture.
The Buddhist art of the Himalayas is characterized by expressly religious themes, combining influences from neighboring regions with unique compositions, symbols and motifs. This sacred art bears the marks of the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions, recreating their characteristic themes and artistic styles and all bearing a profound sacral significance. The religious and philosophical concepts of these two schools are reflected in the paintings, sculptures, architecture, and ritual objects and are typified in murals in temples and monasteries, as illustrations in religious manuscripts, medical and astrological treatises, and as icons with deeply religious meaning, known in Tibetan as thangkas.
Several events were organized during the first week after the opening of the exhibition on 8 June, including a lecture by Khenpo Ramesh Negi, a Tibetan lama from the Drukpa Kagyu tradition and director of the Buddhist Tradition Kampagar Bulgaria religious instituition. During his talk he explained the secret meanings of the images depicted on the thangkas and the symbolism of their colors. Khenpo Ramesh also participated in the opening of the exhibition, performing prayers in Pali, Sanskrit, and Tibetan.
Another Tibetan lama, Pema Rinpoche, a teacher from the Palyul tradition of Nyingma School and the founder and director of the Palyul Center Bulgaria, gave a talk on love and compassion in Buddhism for students from the University of Sofia “St. Kliment Ohridski” who attended the exhibition. In addition to the students, who are studying courses on the religions and spiritual traditions of Asia and women in Buddhism, were several groups of children who explored the Buddhist art of Himalayas and created their own paintings, influenced by the exposition.
It was a great honor for me to be a curator for this special event, presented in Bulgaria for the first time. The exhibition can be viewed at the National Gallery until mid-September 2017.
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