New Book | Buddhist Art of Tibet: In Milarepa’s Footsteps

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on January 10, 2023

With postings, I typically aim for editorial invisibility, allowing the marketing materials of an exhibition or book to do the talking. In this case, however, I would also point readers to Erin Thompson’s review “Sex Tourism with Statues: Buddhist Art of Tibet: In Milarepa’s Footsteps Is a Cringe-worthy Display of ‘Spiritual Colonialism’,” Hyperallergic (3 January 2023). As an associate professor of art crime at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), Thompson holds a JD from Columbia Law School and a PhD in art history from Columbia University (both 2010). Lots of interesting questions about lots of things; I can imagine using the review in class next time I teach my introduction to Chinese art. CH

From Rizzoli:

Etienne Bock, Jean-Marc Falcombello, and Magali Jenny, Buddhist Art of Tibet: In Milarepa’s Footsteps, Symbolism and Spirituality (Paris: Flammarion, 2022), 288 pages, ISBN: 978-2080280947, $50.

Book coverFascinated by Buddhist art and Asian spirituality, Alain Bordier has spent more than forty years building a unique collection of religious objects from the Himalayas (Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan). On display today at the Tibet Museum in the heart of the medieval city of Gruyères, Switzerland, some six hundred works offer visitors the rare opportunity to discover an endangered world heritage. This volume presents a general historic and artistic framework of Tibetan art through narratives, anecdotes, and commentary from Bordier on the different subjects and the collection itself. Beyond the artistic aspect, this work demonstrates the symbolism and spirituality that emerge from each object and offers an interpretation of the themes from a Buddhist viewpoint. The highlight of the book is the presentation of an unpublished manuscript retracing the life of Milarepa, the great eleventh-century Tibetan yogi, whose analysis provides an excellent introduction to the great Buddhist principles.

Etienne Bock is a specialist in Himalayan art and literature. Jean-Marc Falcombello is a cultural journalist and a disciple of Lama Teunsang, one of the oldest living Tibetan masters, for four decades. Magali Jenny is an ethnologist.

Note: The image used for the cover of the book is a Tibetan depiction of Milarepa, from the 18th century, pigment on cloth, 24 × 16 inches (Gruyères: Tibet Museum: Fondation Alain Bordier).
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