The first Sri Lankan Art Exhibition at LACMA: The Jeweled Isle

Sri Lanka Consul General Swarna Gunaratne

Michael Govan (Left 1) , the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Dr. Robert Brown, Curator, South & Southeast Asian Art of LACMA, UCLA professor

Dr. Tushara Bindu Gude, Associate Curator, South & Southeast Asian Art

The first comprehensive survey of Sri Lankan art organized by an American museum, The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka exhibition Launching Ceremony held on December 5th at Los Angeles County Art of Museum (LACMA).  In attendance were Swarna Gunaratne, Sri Lanka ConsulGeneral, LACMA director Michael Govan and over 200 guests.

Swarna Gunaratne, Sri Lanka Consul General at Los Angeles, remarks at the beginning of the ceremony, she said: “Sri Lanka and USA have been close friends for decades.  In addition to the strong and growing economic links, our two nations share tremendous common values that benefit each other towards the socio-economic progress of the two countries.”

“I recall; in 2016, soon after I assumed duties as Consul General for Sri Lanka to the 11 Western States of the USA, based in Los Angeles, in September 2016 to be precious, I accompanied the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka Hon. Mangala Samaraweera for a discussion with LACMA officials about presenting this exhibition.  From that onward, during the last two years we have been constantly discussing and interacting on related matters. More than anything the officials of LACMA working tirelessly to identify these precious and rare artifacts that represent over 2500 years old, glorious and rich history of my Motherland.

“The Jeweled Isle” will, no doubt, assist to bring Sri Lanka’s existing cultural relations with USA to another level for which we all once again express our gratitude to LACMA.”

“On this occasion, I must recognize the support extended by the Government of Sri Lanka, Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka community in the USA towards presenting this memorable event.”

““The Jeweled Isle” will be a major milestone in Sri Lanka – USA relations that make every one of us exceptionally proud. Dr. Brown, Bindu, Nancy, and entire LACMA team I have no words enough to thank you and recognize your dedication.” 

“I would like to thank Ravi Gunewardena and Frank Escher for their exceptional installation design which grounds our exploration firmly within the contours of Sri Lankan architectural space and memory. With the exception of the introductory section, the galleries are arranged in a broad chronological fashion that moves from the pre-history of Buddhism into the present, and from Sri Lanka to Los Angeles. ”

“The Consulate General and the Sri Lanka community specially the Sri Lanka foundation are joining LACMA in organizing Public Ceremonial Event at 10.00 a.m. on Sunday, December 16 at the LACMA outdoor garden  and I cordially invite all of you to make your graceful presence at this ceremonial event as well. The event will include, in addition to the formal opening, Sri Lanka cultural performances by two reputed dancing institutions. “

According to LACMA curator Bindu Gude: the exhibition presents some 250 works addressing nearly two millennia of Sri Lankan history.The image of a bejeweled isle, first invoked in Greco-Roman accounts of Sri Lanka’s precious gems, inspired numerous literary descriptions of the island’s wealth and tropical beauty.

The Jeweled Isle includes precious decorative objects fashioned from gold, silver, and ivory, and 19th-century photographs documenting Sri Lanka’s extraordinary monuments, scenery, and flora.

Several artworks convey the importance of sacred sites and relics in Sri Lankan Buddhist practice, while rare images of Hindu gods attest to the long and constant interaction between Sri Lanka and South India.

Exquisite ivories, textiles, and furnishings further reflect nearly four centuries of European colonial presence in Sri Lanka and the dynamic interaction between local and foreign visual traditions.

LACMA director Michael Govan, Featuring LACMA’s rarely displayed collection of Sri Lankan art—one of the finest and most extensive in the U.S.—the exhibition presents a timely exploration and celebration of a geographically complex, ethnically diverse, and multicultural South Asian hub.

About 250 guests attended the ceremony, Niranjala Tillakaratne (Ph.D., Emeritus Research Professor; Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology & Brain Research Institute, UCLA and Lokubanda Tillakaratne (Retired, Student Affairs Officer, Office of International Students and Scholars, UCLA) said, “The Jeweled Isle exhibition educates the audience about the ancient Sri Lanka through arts such as religious statues, paintings, decorative tiles, royal jewelry, and temple architectural panels. Photographs from 19th and 20th centuries from various sources displayed in the exhibition show flora and fauna, religious ceremonies, Chieftains and their families among others, during the British colonial time. The intricate gold necklet and the silver waist clasp of King Vickrama Rajasinghe (1798-1815), reminded me of the Kandyan Kingdom, the last Kingdom of Sri Lanka, falling into the hands of the British Empire.”

“It was amazing to see Buddha statues from as early as 9th century, in the same room with Lewis deSoto’s inflated sculpture of Buddha in reclining posture (2015) spanning more than 15 feet. I was also fascinated by the enormous, colorful 19th century temple hanging with scenes from Ramanayana (painted and dyed cotton), covering an entire wall.  I am glad that I used the printed guide provided at the exhibit to go through all 38 panels.  It was rewarding!”

“We as Sri Lankan Expatriates are thankful for LACMA for their immense efforts in putting together a collection of Sri Lankan Arts spanning over several centuries.”

Exhibition: LACMA, Resnick Pavilion, December 9, 2018–June 23, 2019

LACMA | Smidt Welcome Plaza

Swarna Gunaratne, Sri Lanka Consul General (Left ) and Bindu Gude (Right)

Consul General of Afghanistan in Los Angeles. Abdul Majied Danishyar (Left 2) , Mame Toucouleur Mbaye, Honorary Consul of Senegalese Honorary Consulate in Los Angeles (Right) 

From Right: Niranjala Tillakaratne (Ph.D., Emeritus Research Professor; Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology & Brain Research Institute, UCLA and Lokubanda Tillakaratne (Retired, Student Affairs Officer, Office of International Students and Scholars, UCLA)

Ms. Nancy Fox, Senior Curatorial Administrator for the South and Southeast Asian Art Department (Middle)