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Our gallery consists out of a selection of diverse artworks made by today’s leading Tibetan contemporary artists. Together with the classical Tibetan art objects, traditional Thangka paintings and ancient scriptures derived by the holy Buddhist sutras they offer a Tibetan perspective in the Museum.

Example piece of our collection:

My Identity Nos. 1-4 by Gonkar Gyatso

photo series taken by famous artist Gonkar Gyatso

Medium: Photographs, Installation
61,5 x 78 x 3,4 cm dimensions of each
Museum/Collection: Museum of Contemporary Tibetan Art, Emmen, The Netherlands – Gallery of Rossi and Rossi Ltd. London, England

Gonkar Gyatso is one of the foremost Tibetan political artists working today. Known primarily for his works portraying the Buddha without a face, but often either blank or super-imposed with another image such as a the sickle from the Chinese flag, or multiple images from stickers of a central theme, and collected by the artist, has created a political and social self-portrait in My Identity. An installation comprised of actually four separate works, My Identity showcases the artist in four different guises as a Tibetan artist, from four different time periods of the artists’ life. The result is a showcase of different aspects of Gonkar Gyatso’s personal life, to present a small biography of himself, while at the same time making it possible to view the individual pieces as snapshots of other individual Tibetan artists who may be in similar circumstances. 

Descriptive Analysis

My Identity is in actuality a series of four self photographs, often shown as part of a single installation, that shows the artist costumed as a Tibetan artist from four different periods, painting four separate works to correspond with the four different periods of his professional career, and “is a re-enactment of a 1937 photo by C. Suydam Cutting, the first Westerner to enter the Tibetan capital, that portrays the Dalai Lama’s senior thangka painter at work”. 

The first photograph shows Gyatso dressed in a traditional Tibetan robe, painting a Buddha, as a traditional Tibetan artist would work. The second photograph shows Gyatso dressed in a Chinese communist uniform from the Cultural Revolutionary period surrounded by walls covered with newspapers, painting a picture of Mao. The third photograph shows Gyatso dressed as a modern Tibetan refugee artist painting another Buddhist oriented painting, but taking place in the Dalai Lama residence. The last photograph shows Gyatso as a refugee artist in London painting an abstract work, showing him as he is and works today. 

The work is at once colorful and simple, drawing ones attention to the piece through its vibrant use of color and realistic settings. But it is upon closer observation it becomes apparent that the artist is using the simple first impression to convey a stronger political and social message of the life of a Tibetan artist living under Chinese rule, and the identity crisis that such a condition can force upon an individual over the course of a lifetime. From the utilization of a beginning artist attempting to live and paint as a Tibetan, through the forced assimilation into a Chinese culture that is at once pervasive and limited, to attempting to find ones identity as a Tibetan in exile in different locales and with different social groups, the work is a subtle look at not only Gonkar Gyatso’s life, but the life of many Tibetans and artists who live under Chinese domination watching their culture be absorbed or nullified. 

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