Exploring art in ulan bator (3)

13:46, June 26, 2011      

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The Winter Palace of Bogd Khan is 2.5 km south of the epicenter of this arts hub, but there's no way you can ignore this repository of ceremonial weaponry, lacquer furniture, bronze sculptures, silk appliqus and sutras, if you're into Tibetan-Buddhist art.

Bogd Khan (1869-1924), one of the most influential religious and political leaders in Mongolian history, ostentatiously lined his ger or yurt (cylindrical felt-lined tent) with the coat of 150 snow leopards, and would conduct his business sitting on a mantle layered with 80 fox skins. These excesses aside, he was also a connoisseur and collector of Mongolian art from the 17th to early 20th century, including some of the finest gilt-bronze works by Zanabazar.

The collection in the Monastery-Museum of Choijin Lama to the southeast of Sukhbaatar Square is tilted somewhat towards the quirky and the bizarre. If intimidating papier-mache masks embellished with an intense weaving of corals, miniature skulls and horsehair and elegant bronze sculptures of gods locked in intimate embraces with their consorts appeal to you, this is probably your scene.

The grandiose throne of Choijin Lama, who was the state oracle and Bogd Khan's brother, is an obvious attraction. However, it's the mysterious bronze figures, like the one in the Yadam temple who appears with a pulley in one hand and a bleeding human skull in the other, that always to baffle.

A slice of the vibrant contemporary art scene in Ulan Bator could be sampled at the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery in the Culture Palace and the Union of Mongolian Artists' Art Center across the road from National Academic Drama theatre.

A slew of art galleries in and around Baruun Selbe Street exhibit and sell images done in oil, watercolor and felt. As the Ulan Bator skyline morphs and mutates, with snazzy malls and futuristic chrome-and-glass structures towering over European architecture, pagoda roofs and the ger districts, the city's artists are eager to record the transition.

And for the traveler stopping by, it is a rare chance to witness exhibitions and works in progress.

(Sources: China Daily)
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