Bhutan Grants Access to Temples

by KATE TAYLOR, The New York Times, January 2, 2011

Timphu, Bhutan -- The Himalayan kingdom Bhutan has granted British art experts rare access to the country’s roughly 2,000 Buddhist temples and monasteries in an effort to preserve wall paintings from the 16th through 19th centuries, The Observer of London reported.

The research project, a joint effort between the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and the Bhutan Culture Department, was financed by an anonymous United States donor.

The experts have finished their fieldwork and analysis, and they will publish a report. Bhutan’s art is largely restricted to veneration within the temples and monasteries, so it is little known in the West and hard to gain access to even inside Bhutan.

In 2008 the government allowed some sacred artworks to leave for an exhibition organized by the Honolulu Academy of Arts on the condition that they be chaperoned by Bhutanese monks, who performed daily rituals to safeguard the works’ spiritual well-being.