using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : May 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 29 A LARGE BYZANTINE CROSS flying wildly around on the neck of a singer in a rock video. A trendy kabbala bracelet flaunt- ed by a movie star on the red carpet. A bodhisattva statue dis- played in the bathroom or the bedroom of an art collector. An entire room decorated in aboriginal burial art of various tradi- tions from different parts of the world. A museum where one can see art from five different traditions in the span of five minutes. All of these are examples of sacred art displayed out of their intended context. In recent years, the museum world has been rocked by controversy about the appro- priate conservation, display, and use of sacred art, and museum professionals are starting to use the term “culturally signifi- cant” to refer to values in a work that go beyond the aesthetic or utilitarian—val- ues that many curators and conserva- tors believe must be respected. Moreover, many people who are not museum pro- fessionals—who simply find an object compelling or attractive—wonder about how to regard and how to care for a work of sacred art. Through thirty-five years of restoring Tibetan sacred paintings (thangkas) for museums, monasteries, and private col- lectors, I have developed an understand- ing of the unique issues surrounding art objects with sacred significance. This kind of art demands a certain kind of re- spect, and the how-to’s involved in caring for sacred art range from the practical and mundane to the subtle and elusive. Whether you are the guardian of a muse- um storeroom full of aboriginal burial objects, or you own one thangka painting or amulet, well- informed, skillful, respectful care and handling are crucial. To be a good art conservator, one must form an intimate relationship with the object being treated. Without knowing the art’s significance, in addition to its properties as a material object, it is harder to accurately restore and protect it. There- fore, I have regularly interviewed elders and master teachers so that I could marry their wisdom and advice with sound sci- entific principles when caring for sacred art. A native elder, a member of the Mi’kmaq nation of the Canadian Maritimes, explained to me, “A sacred object, while it may have designs incorporated in it, is not a piece of art.” Likewise, Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, a learned Tibetan Buddhist teacher, told me, “Sacred art is not just for beauty. It is for teaching and de- veloping inner wisdom and compassion. Since it is not meant just for decoration, such art should be kept in a clean and ap- propriate place.” Traditional cultures and religions have strict standards about what constitutes respect. If you bring sacred art from a strong culture into your own world, it makes sense to show it the kind of respect appropriate to its tradition, which requires knowing something about that tradition. Although the notion of “the sacred” is central to the Judeo-Christian tradition, the subtleties of spiritual and practical care of sacred art are often not easy to translate into the language of our spiritually di- verse, eclectic, and increasingly secular culture. In the United States, the Native American Graves Protec- tion and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) defines sacred objects as “specific ceremonial objects that are needed by traditional ANN SHAFTEL is an art conservationist who consults internation- ally to Western museums and Buddhist monasteries on the care, display, documentation, and management of thangka collections. Handle with Care As owner of a sacred object, we’re obliged to preserve its power for future generations, says art conservator ANN SHAFTEL. And to do that, we have to understand and respect its original purpose. PHOTOBYMARGUERITESANDS