Museum PR Announcements News and Information

Museum of Fine Arts Boston opens Seeking Shambhala exhibition

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston presents Seeking Shambhala, an exhibition on view March 6, 2012 – September 30, 2012.

Gonkar Gyatso (Tibetan, born 1961), The Shambala in Modern Times, 2008. Silkscreen with gold and silver leaf on paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Marshall H. Gould Fund. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The search for the utopian realm of Shambhala, also sometimes known as “Shangri-La,” has captured the imagination of people for thousands of years. Be it a state of mind or an actual place somewhere in Central Asia, this legendary kingdom is said to be ruled by a lineage of 32 mythological kings who are protectors of Tibetan Buddhist texts. A set of newly conserved 17th-century paintings representing 22 of these Shambhala kings provides the focal point of the MFA’s exhibition Seeking Shambhala, on view from March 6 to September 30 on the second floor of the Museum. Through these centuries- old scroll paintings and decorative objects, as well as contemporary works, the exhibition examines the spiritual journey to find “The Pure Land” where peace reigns, wealth abounds, and no illness exists. Seeking Shambhala is presented with generous support from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Exhibition Fund and the Dr. Robert A. and Dr. Veronica Petersen Fund for Exhibitions.

The exhibition features more than 60 objects primarily from the MFA’s collection, which has one of the largest sets of Shambhala kings paintings outside of Asia. The show represents the first time that the restored works, each measuring approximately 60” tall by 29” wide, will be seen
with the scroll painting Shakyamuni Buddha (Tibetan, second half of the 17th century). These thangkas, or Tibetan paintings on silk or cotton, incorporate Buddhist symbols and iconography associated with each of the kings. Included in the exhibition are decorative works that capture this rich imagery and offer clues identifying the kings and placing them in order within the lineage. Complementing these paintings are contemporary works created by Gonkar Gyatso, one of the foremost Tibetan artists, and Tadanori Yokoo, the highly celebrated Japanese artist. Their personal quests to find Shambhala—śambhu in Sanskrit, which means “Source of Happiness” (bde ‘byung) in Tibetan—reinforce this mystical place’s relevance in the modern world. Featured among the contemporary works on view will be Gyatso’s Radioactive (2011, Courtesy of Gonkar Gyatso and Beyer Projects), a large cast-resin sculpture of Buddha Shakyamuni decorated with a collage of modern-day references, which is on view in the
gallery in front of the entrance to the Museum’s Buddhist Temple Room.

“I am always delighted by opportunities to bring to light paintings from our collections that have not been readily exhibited,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “Asian Conservation has breathed new life and energy into these magnificent kings by returning the paintings to their original regal and glorious formats. By combining this 17th-century set with contemporary art by Gonkar Gyatso and Tadanori Yokoo, new connections are formed. Our visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the symbolism, color, and brilliance of this exhibition.”

For more information, visit or call 617.267.9300.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *