| Exhibitions


Tibet: Treasures From the Roof of the World


San Francisco is the last venue for Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World, June 12 - September 11, 2005. What the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art initiated remains the same. The 118 groups of objects on display haven't changed, yet the exhibition itself isn't exactly the same, in various interesting ways. For one thing, the Asian Art Museum as usual exercises their typical presentational flair. Consider, say, the prayer flags strung outside the building, or the six large banners emblazoned with an endless knot (shrivatsa; dpal be'u) blowing gracefully outside the three rooms of the exhibit. They do allow the Dharma to be borne along by the winds, and add a proper glow and warmth to introduce the show.

More substantively, perhaps, the awesome long horn (more than nine foot) is now propped up, diagonally, atop an equally magnificent long-horn stand. And visitors can walk around it, as was not the case with many pieces at previous installations. The peacock robe, for example, (another stand-out), woven of iridescent peacock feather strands, can be seen in the round.

Then, too, the center of the middle room, a large screen shows a video that features some very rare footage, such as a visit to the stupa of HH the 13th Dalai Lama. Elsewhere, however, the video was treated more as a more atmospheric element, but the Asian Art Museum commissioned titling throughout, so people can understand and appreciate what they're seeing.

And the San Francisco Bay Area is home to a sizable Tibetan population in exile. So, well before the exhibit, the Asian Art Museum entered into dialogue with them. While the Museum hasn't changed the exhibit itself to become something other, they've accommodated competing interests such that the public may see for themselves and, if they wish, learn more. A traditional sand mandala will be created (and destroyed) from July 2 to 10 by monks from the Dzindu Monastery; Jamyong Singye will create thankas from June 12-July 31. Plus, in addition to story tellers, dancers, lecturers, and workshops, there will be a film series of ten films, with speakers, co-sponsored by the Bay Area Friends of Tibet, Tibetan Youth Congress, Committee of 100 for Tibet, and Tibet Justice Center, covering a fairly broad spectrum of topics and themes.

As the exhibit comes to the San Francisco Bay Area, (home of the exhibition's three co-curators: Terese Tse Bartholomew, Patricia Berger, and Robert Warren Clark), this writer notes that it illustrates how art is never simply an item pinned to a wall but is also an event, and as such enters into a larger cultural dialogue in community.

Gary Gach

all images and text © Bowers Museum, Tibet Museum & Asian Art Museum of San Francisco