Exhibition Gala Opening: Bhutan: Gross National Happiness

Lama Thinley, Head Lama, Shalipangkha Monastery, Bhutan

Please join us on Sunday, February 25 from 2:00-3:30 p.m. as we celebrate the opening of Bhutan: Gross National Happiness.  Featured will be a gallery walk-through with exhibit photographer, John Wehrheim and a very special initiation of the sand mandala, a visual representation of the Himalayan Buddhist cosmos, by visiting Bhutanese monks.

The continued creation of the mandala can also be viewed on:

February 26 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and

February 27 – March 2 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.


Upcoming Exhibition: Bhutan: Gross National Happiness

Bhutan: Gross National Happiness
February 25 – May 27, 2018

Laya School, Laya, 2005. Photographer: John Wehrheim

Curators: Michael Schuster and Annie Reynolds
Consultants: John Wehrheim and Thinley Choden
Visiting artist monks: Lama Thinley, Kinley Penjor and Lopen Tenzin
Photographer: John Wehrheim
Installation Design: Lynne Najita
Coordinator: Eric Chang

Sandwiched between the powerful nations of India and China, Bhutan is one of the world’s least known and most sparsely populated countries: only 38,400 square kilometers (about the size of Switzerland), with a population of 800,000 scattered across fertile valleys that dot otherwise untouched forests. The Bhutanese are diverse, speaking 24 languages and more than 100 dialects of Tibeto-Burman and Indo-Aryan languages. Beneath the towering peaks of the eastern Himalayan mountains, Bhutan is a stabilizing force supporting Himalayan Tantric Buddhist culture. Unlike many historic Himalayan kingdoms, Bhutan was never conquered or colonized. The country is blessed with peace, prosperity, and an ancient culture still alive and vibrant. Bhutan’s fourth monarch, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, led his people from absolute monarchy to a democracy guided by the principle that Gross National Happiness better measures success than Gross National Product. The fourth king rejected the conventional model of global development: that more is better and growing consumption equals success. The king aimed to balance the country’s economic needs with environmental preservation and traditional values, founded on the Buddhist principles that all life is sacred and all living beings are interdependent. The Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness are: Environmental Preservation, Preserving and Promoting Culture, Good Governance, and Balanced Economic Development.

To romanticize Bhutan as an other- worldly kingdom isolated in the Himalayas would do the Bhutanese a great disservice, trivializing the very real challenges, internal and external, that threaten their future. Modern Bhutan offers a practical and powerful gift — a focus on happiness and sustainability — to a world dominated by over-consumption and environmental destruction.

Exhibition photographs feature people in everyday life, taken between 1991-2006 in western and central Bhutan. From the snow peaks of Lunana and the rice paddies of Punakha to the nightclubs of Thimphu, this area represents Bhutan’s great diversity of culture, climate, terrain, and people. The exhibition also includes textiles, Buddhist ritual items, and utilitarian objects. The exhibition features a traditional mandala made of sand and created on site by visiting Bhutanese Buddhist monks.

Download the exhibit handout here.