Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond marks the first exhibition of contemporary Tibetan art in a New York City museum. The nine Tibetan artists featured each explore contemporary issues—personal, political, and cultural—by integrating the centuries-old traditional imagery, techniques, and materials found in Tibetan Buddhist art with modern influences and media.
The exhibition began with an invitation: the nine artists were asked to submit new and recent works that served as the show’s formative voice and inspired the curatorial response. Specific works by the same artists were then selected from New York private collections in order to complement the new pieces and highlight each artist’s range.
Tradition Transformed represents the unique position of this groundbreaking generation of Tibetan artists that includes Gonkar Gyatso, Tenzing Rigdol, Losang Gyatso, and Dedron. Several of the artists were born in Tibet while others come from Nepal or one of the large Tibetan settlements in India. Three continue to work in their Himalayan homelands, though the majority have emigrated to Europe and the United States. All have benefited from the possibilities of technology, travel, and personal artistic freedom, which inform their individual responses to the complex interaction between the traditional and the modern in both art and culture.
Still they face myriad challenges. Not only must they forge a name for themselves in the competitive art world, but they must also find their own place within Tibet’s rich and formalized artistic legacy. Trained in traditional painting and the strict interpretations prescribed by Buddhist religion, these nine artists break the spiritual formulas and artistic norms by experimenting with alternative media and extracting sacred symbols from their religious context, repurposing them for self-expression.
The Rubin Museum’s permanent collection affords visitors a rare opportunity to view these contemporary Tibetan pieces in conjunction with traditional Tibetan works throughout the museum’s other galleries. Tradition Transformed is also an exciting chance for the museum to highlight contemporary Tibetan art’s place in the field of Himalayan art and the contemporary art world at large.
Artists on Art
Artists featured in the exhibition give a guided interpretation of their work and objects from the museum’s collection. Participating artists include: Tsherin Sherpa, Kesang Lamdark, Tenzing Rigdol, Pema Rinzin, and Gonkar Gyatso.