Mastery and Merit: Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection

When: March 5 through July 31

An abstract geometric design.
Mandala of the Luminous One, Nampar Nagdzé, Central Tibet, ca. 18th century
Distemper on cloth
The Jack Shear Collection of Tibetan Art

In Tibetan Buddhism, mastery takes many forms. Highly qualified Buddhist masters serve as teachers, guides, and patrons, and some are considered living, accessible embodiments of enlightenment. Often referred to as lamas or gurus, many use their skills to help devotees navigate the challenges of the human condition, cultivate higher levels of insight, and lead their communities in a collective endeavor to reduce suffering. Paintings, sculptures, and ritual objects contribute significantly to these efforts, as they offer material form to philosophical tenets and ritual practices, many of which are highly complex and nuanced. Undertaking these practices—and creating the art that support them—is believed to generate good merit, the cumulative positive power that brings benefits to the world.

Drawn from the Jack Shear Collection, Mastery and Merit presents more than thirty works that demonstrate the multivalent and critical roles of Buddhist masters, as well as the rich diversity of merit-generating practices available to devotees. Displayed across three galleries, the exhibition highlights multiple Tibetan Buddhist masters and reincarnation lineages; deities associated with everyday concerns like healing, wealth, and removing obstacles; and a selection of images associated with sophisticated, highly esoteric practices available to advanced initiates.

Press Release: Skidmore, Vassar, and Williams colleges announce shared gift of Tibetan art from the Jack Shear Collection - March 8, 2022

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