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September 7, 2011

Contact: Karen Cardinal  

Accounting, Web and Marketing Manager, Mead Art Museum 

Telephone 413/542-2551  

Hi-res images available upon request   

Now on view

Picturing Enlightenment:  

Thangka in the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

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AMHERST, Mass. - The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College is pleased to announce the opening of Picturing Enlightenment: Thangka in the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. This special exhibition marks the completion of a twenty-one month project to conserve the Mead Art Museum's collection of thangka - scroll paintings of Buddhist figures. So fragile that they have remained largely inaccessible to scholars and museum visitors for nearly six decades, Amherst College's eighteen thangka, primarily from Tibet, have been gently cleaned, stabilized, and repaired by conservators at Museum Textile Services in Andover, Massachusetts. A generous grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and additional support from the Amherst College Department of Religion underwrote the conservation treatment. The Louis and Nettie Horch Foundation provided further support for the conservation of one thangka.


The exhibition, made possible with generous support from the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund and the Wise Fund for Fine Arts, will present the entire collection of eighteen thangka in two parts. Nine thangka will remain on view through January 1, 2012. The remaining nine thangka will be presented from January 20 to June 3, 2012.


The exhibition will be enriched by an extensive program of museum events, including gallery talks, public lectures, and thangka-focused meditations-all open to the public and free of charge. On September 16, Robert Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, and Marilyn Rhie, Jesse Wells Post Professor of Art and Professor of East Asian Studies at Smith College, will offer a joint presentation exploring issues in Tibetan art history and Buddhism raised by the exhibition. On October 19, Camille Myers Breeze, Director and Head Conservator of Museum Textile Services in Andover, Massachusetts, will present the public lecture, Opening Doors: Conserving the Mead Art Museum's Thangka Collection. On November 9 and December 7, the museum will devote the sessions in its ongoing series, Meditation at the Mead, to Buddhist meditative practices; both meditations will engage the exhibition's thangka.


Other exhibition-related events will be hosted by campus and community organizations. From October 13 to 16, Amherst College will welcome monks from the Tibetan Buddhist Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, New York, where they will create a sand mandala in the Frost Library. The event will be marked by opening and closing ceremonies. On October 14, the Frost Library at Amherst College will open an exhibition of contemporary paintings depicting Dhyani Buddhas by regional artist Joan Bredin-Price. The sand mandala and Bredin-Price exhibition coincide with the Fourth Annual Seminar on Exploring Buddhism: Buddhist Views on Death and Impermanence, to be held at Amherst College on October 13 and 14 and at Florence Civic Center on October 15 and 16, featuring Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobzang Tsetan, Abbot, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, South India, and Professor David L. Gardner, Department of Religion, Colorado College. On October 22 and 23, Amherst Cinema will screen My Reincarnation, and arrange for the documentary film's director, Jennifer Fox, and its subject, Khyentse Yeshi Namkhai, to speak. Amherst College faculty members Maria Heim, Associate Professor of Religion and Buddhist Studies and Chair of the Religion Department, and Paola Zamperini, Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Civilizations have played vital roles in organizing these events.


A complete listing of exhibition-related events is available at The Mead Art Museum houses the art collection of Amherst College, totaling more than 16,000 works. An accredited member of the American Association of Museums, the Mead participates in Museums10, a regional cultural collaboration. During the academic term, the museum is open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to midnight and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, please visit the museum's Web site,, or call 413/542-2335.