Contemporary Art meets Buddhism

Ipshita Sen of Saffronart shares a note on the Haein Art Project

Haeinsa Temple, Korea

Haeinsa Temple, Korea. Image Credit:

New York: Viewing art in non-conventional spaces is always refreshing and gives the viewer an opportunity to engage with and understand the art better.  A Buddhist temple in South Korea is hosting a show of contemporary art in an effort to provide a new perspective and to create an interesting juxtaposition between Buddhism and contemporary art.

The Haeinsa Temple is a 1211 year old shrine nestled in the lush valleys of Gaya-san National Park. The temple is dedicated to the Korean Avantamsaka School of Buddhism and is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, the most complete collection of Buddhist texts, printed on 81,258 wood blocks. The buildings and the blocks were designated by the UNESCO as one of the “most important and complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world”. The layout of the temple is typical of a Korean monastery. Stupas, gates, courtyards, and halls are all aligned along proper axes according to geomantic principles and Buddhist symbols, physically illustrating the process of enlightenment. In fact the entire layout of Haeinsa temple resembles a sailing ship with pagodas as masts.

The year 2011 marked the first contemporary art show at the temple, commemorating the millennial anniversary of the wooden blocks, which were initially engraved, with the intent of protection from the invasion from a northern Dynasty. The ancient blocks were lost in a fire resulting from the invasion.

This year, the Haein Art Project at the temple featured new works by 30 artists from around the world; South Korea, India, U.S, Spain, Italy and Hong Kong. Most of the artists were invited to spend two weeks at the temple and create new works that are related to Buddhist thinking, for the project.

The works were scattered around the grounds of the temple. Indian artist Vibha Galhotra created an installation of white flags at the pathway that lead to the temple gates. The flags represented national flags devoid of color thus attempting to erase the borders of a divided world. Other Indian artists featuring in this project were Sheba Chhachhi, Reena Kallat, Shilpa Gupta and Hema Upadhyay. Another work by South Korean artist duo Mioon involved projections of nature and architectural images that sporadically appear and disappear as though an echo of fullness and emptiness in the viewers mind.

For more information read here.

Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a note on the forthcoming exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington

London: The Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will be hosting from October 19th, the first exhibition entirely dedicated to the art of yoga, perhaps one of the most popular practices at the moment.

Yoga: The Art of Transformation. Image Credit:

Yoga: The Art of Transformation. Image Credit:

The exhibition visually traces the history of yoga from its beginning to its modern practice. More than 120 artworks including sculptures, paintings, photographs and films shed light on the obscure history and tenets of yoga and its masters. The show attests the diffusion of yoga between the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sufi faiths and their shared goal of transforming the body and mind through the yogic practice.

The works on display which date from the 3rd to the early 20th century are categorized in four sections explicating the different stages of the history of yoga: Tantra, The Path of Yoga, Yoga in the Indian Imagination 1570-1830 and Modern Transformations.

Among the highlights are 10 folios from the first illustrated anthology of asanas (yogic poses), the movie “Hindoo Fakir” directed by Thomas Edison in 1906 and 3 statues of Yogini from a 10th century Chola temple.  The works showing in the exhibit were borrowed from 25 museums and private collections based in India, Europe and the United States.

You can enjoy below a sneak peek of some of the exhibition’s highlights:

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Make a note on your diary that the exhibition will be on from the 19th of October 2013 until 26th of January 2014. I am looking forward to it!

To learn more about Yoga: The Art of Transformation, visit the Smithsonian website and read here.

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