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Art with Benefits

The Drigung Tradition

April 24–September 7, 2015

Across all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism is the notion that a work of art has the power to transform and bestow a variety of benefits upon the beholder. Depending on the particular subject depicted in a painting, sculpture, or relic, the viewer gains such boons as removing obstacles, acquiring merit, and purifying all sins, bringing benefits for this life and the next, simply by seeing it.

This concept is made visually and textually explicit in works of art created by followers of the Drigung Kagyu School, a Tibetan Buddhism community founded in the late 12th century and still in existence today. Art with Benefits highlights the distinctive and varying styles that have characterized Drigung art over its more than 800 year history, as well as the most commonly depicted subjects and the benefits they offer, including the Buddha type “Beneficial to See,” protectresses, wrathful deities, teachers, and footprints.

Funding for the catalog has been provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Image credit: Shakyamuni Beneficial to See (detail); Tibet (Drigung School Monastery); early 14th century; Distemper on cloth; Pritzker Family Collection

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