The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka, is the first comprehensive survey of Sri Lankan art organized by a U.S. museum. Drawn in part from LACMA’s collection of Sri Lankan art, and including numerous domestic and international loans, the exhibition presents some 250 works addressing nearly two millennia of Sri Lankan history. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Robert L. Brown and Dr. Tushara Bindu Gude, of LACMA’s South and Southeast Asian Art Department, and is designed by Los Angeles-based architecture firm Escher GuneWardena Architecture.
Sri Lanka Foundation was honored to be invited to the special soft opening ceremony which was organized by the Sri Lankan consulate general’s office. After a wonderful cocktail hour which had Sri Lankan inspired hors d’oeuvres the exhibition was introduced by Dr. Robert L. Brown and Dr. Tushara Bindu Gud. Mrs. Swarna Gunaratne, Consul General of Sri Lanka to the western states welcomed everyone to this event and thanked all donors, trustees, and special guests for their support. Everyone was eager to view the jewels of Sri Lanka.
As you walk in to the exhibition you will be in awe of the 21 precious gemstones that were mined in Sri Lanka. The journey after will be filled with beautifully carved masks, hand-painted decorative objects, precious decorative objects fashioned from gold, silver, ivory, bronze and wood. Throughout the exhibition you will also be able to see 19th-century photographs documenting Sri Lanka’s extraordinary monuments, people, landscapes, and flora.
Following the introductory gallery, The Jeweled Isle is loosely organized around three chronological sections that examine the major capitals of Sri Lankan history such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy and from four centuries of European colonial presence in Sri Lanka.
Throughout the exhibition the cultural and religious fabric of Sri Lanka was explored. As a whole the exhibition explored the rich connection of Sri Lanka to Buddhism with sculptures, paintings, and architectural fragments. It showed how during the Anuradhapura period Buddhism was predominant religion and how with increasing ties to India during the Polonnaruwa period, Hinduism was also an important part of the island’s cultural and religious fabric. The exhibition includes rare images of Hindu gods and Indian deities. Exquisite ivories, textiles, and furnishings further reflect nearly four centuries of European colonial presence in Sri Lanka and how Sri Lanka had been known to the ancient world since the 4th century BCE when Greek mariners first caught wind of a fabulous jeweled-bearing island somewhere beyond India.
The final gallery of The Jeweled Isle included a contemporary artwork by California-based artist Lewis deSoto (b. 1954). DeSoto’s large inflatable sculpture is inspired by the massive 12th-century stone carving of the reclining Buddha at the Gal Vihara (Rock Monastery) in Polonnaruva. The artist’s work serves as a commentary on the power of the Buddha’s teaching.
The official opening ceremony is to be held on Sunday, December 16 at 10:00 am at the Smidt Welcome Plaza. The event is free and open to the public. The official oil lamp lighting ceremony will be followed by traditional Sri Lankan Dance & Drumming featuring Traditional Kandyan Dancing and Drumming from Sri Lanka Foundation Performing Arts Center. This program is made possible by the office of the Consulate General of Sri Lanka to Western States USA.