Packaging the Naked Buddhas: Innovations and Imagination in the Tourist Art of Nepal

Dr. Dina Bangdel
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Using Nepal as a case study, this paper explores the phenomena of tourist art as narratives of cultural imaginings, specifically the constructions of identity and meaning through the production and marketing of “ethnic” art. Indeed, the production of “ethnic” goods for export and tourism is the third largest revenue generator in Nepal, and Buddhist artworks in particular have a large international consumer market. It is this demand on the imagined “authentic” that has given rise to new iconographies and non-traditional artistic styles that are increasingly becoming the standard for tourist art.

Based on field interviews of the artists creating these works as well as tourists consumer, this paper will examine the ways in which tourist experience offers a space for the defining of artistic creativity, specifically relating to Buddhist thangka paintings. Here, I will consider how the traditional artists imagine themselves fulfilling the expectations of the tourists, by categorically constructing the aesthetic tastes of the “other,” based on specific global identities. This imagining then becomes critical to the marketing/packaging of the commodities as it underscores how these new iconographies are interpreted and sold as continuities of the traditional works of art.

Keywords: Tourist Art, Buddhist Iconography, Nepal, Religion, Himalayan Art, Thangka Painting
Stream: Arts Agendas
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Dina Bangdel

Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Virginia Commonwealth Univeristy
Richmond, VA, USA

BA in Art History, Bryn Mawr College, USA; MA-South Asian Studies, University of Madison, Wisconsin USA; Ph.D.(1999) The Ohio State University (Asian Art), USA. Fieldwork: India, Nepal, and Tibet. Dissertation: Manifesting the Mandala: A Study of the Core Iconographic Program of Newar Buddhist Monasteries of Nepal. Publications: Co-author and Co-curator of Buddhist art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Columbus Museum of Art: Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditional Art (Serindia and Columbus Museum of Art, 2004).

Ref: A06P0529