On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the birth of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness – New York 1966-2016 – Bhagavat Atheneum / Bibliothè Contemporary Art in collaboration with Association Culture del Mondo is pleased to present at The Bhakti Center in New York, MATCHLESS GIFTS. A group exhibition of work by artists related to the Krishna Consciousness Movement from its earliest days to the present.
For the first time, the works of various artists will be exhibited collectively, spanning from those who since its inception have participated in the Krishna Consciousness movement along with other international artists who have since contributed with works reflecting interpretations of the spiritual message of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Calcutta 1896 Vrindavana-1977) and the Bhagavad Gita: Enzo Barchi (Ekadasinath), Miriam Briks (Dhriti) & Kevin Yee (Ramdas), Marek Buchwold (Baradraj), Claudio Bianchi, Aurelio Bulzatti, Tommaso Cascella, Bruno Ceccobelli, Harvey Cohen (Haridas), Anna Maria Colucci (Samagra), Teresa Coratella, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, Baldo Diodato, Bruna Esposito, Govinda Dasi, Uemon Ikeda, Jadurani, Mark Kostabi, Patrizio Landolfi (Pandu Putra), Massimo Livadiotti, Ria Lussi, Andrea Orlo (Acarya Prema), Tito Marci, Muralidhara, Pariksit, Alberto Parres, Jacelyn Parry, Paola Princivalli Conti, Salvatore Pupillo, Puskara, Jack Sal, Andrea Tagliaventi, Tarshito, Giampaolo Tomassetti (Jnananjana).
The spreading of the core beliefs proposed by the Hare Krishna primarily involves the contemplation of Bhakti yoga as a relationship with the divine through love and devotion, vegetarianism, aryuveda and in particular, the visual arts and music played an important role in inspiring young American people to contribute with their creative impulses to the Movement. It was Prabhupada who in the sixties, inspired the early artists who eventually affectionately named the art space Swamiji’s art studio, located in the East Village, New York. It was also in the same neighborhood, in Tompskins Square Park, on October the 9th 1966, where he initially sat down with a group of first followers under the American elm (known as the Hare Krishna Tree) and held the first session of chanting outside of India accompanied by it’s rhythmic dances, percussions and the fervent devoted chanting of the mantra Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In the first section of the exhibition, showcases the first twenty years of the movement. This period saw the birth of works by authors such as Harvey Cohen (Haridas) with his poster for the Mantra Rock Dance (1966), Govinda Dasi with the cover of the Bhagavad Gita in 1968 and Baradraj & Jadurani Dasi with the cover for the 1972 edition. Before in the New York studio, in Boston, then followed by Los Angeles, the artwork that would grace the books of Srila Prabhupada, were realized with the same techniques descended from the bottegas of old European art masters, interpreting the ancient Vedic iconography in a modern key. With the acquisition in 1979 of Villa Vrindavana – a property that once belonged to the Machiavelli family – some of the first American artists amongst which, Ram das Abhiram with Dhriti Dasi and Pariksit, were invited to form a European branch of the school and it was there, together with Jananjana (Giampaolo Tomassetti) and Acarya Prema where they renewed the artistic output that successively came to be identified as Neo-Vedic. From 2015, Villa Vrindavana became the seat of the Italian Museum of Sacred Art – MOSA and continued the dissemination of sacred texts either through painting or through the popular Radio Krishna Centrale network (RKC), where until up to the early nineties, prominent Italian figures such as musicians and composers Claudio Rocchi (Krishna Chaitanya Das) and Paolo Tofani (Krishna Prema Das) were a frequent mainstay.
The second section of the exhibition is dedicated to artists primarily from different cultures and faiths who have contributed in expressing the spiritual themes of the Krishna Consciousness movement though art: Enzo Barchi, Claudio Bianchi, Aurelio Bulzatti, Tommaso Cascella, Bruno Ceccobelli, Anna Maria Colucci (Samagra), Teresa Coratella, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, Baldo Diodato, Bruna Esposito, Uemon Ikeda, Mark Kostabi, Patrizio Landolfi (Pandu Putra), Massimo Livadiotti, Ria Lussi, Tito Marci, Alberto Parres, Jacelyn Parry, Paola Princivalli Conti, Salvatore Pupillo, Jack Sal, Andrea Tagliaventi, Tarshito.
In the exhibition, there will be displayed the memorabilia of Alan and Carol Kallman, George Harrison, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, along with the short films by Giorgio and Jonas Mekas and a video with Allen Ginsberg chanting Hare Krishna. These works together document the impact that the words and teachings of Prabhupada had on the culture of that time. Various events were organized within that context and the most important one being the Mantra Rock Dance that took place on January 29th, 1967, in San Francisco. It was a fund raising concert in which the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin played along with Big Brother & The Holding Company.
Other supporters of the movement were Ravi Shankar, author of the music of the documentary Hare Krishna (A Giorgio Film, 1967) and, especially, George Harrison who produced the album The Radha Krishna Temple (1969), including the Hare Krishna Mantra in the song My Sweet Lord and financed the printing of the book Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead produced by ISKON.
“Surely, to create a work according to such a specific theme will be a real challenge,” – says Enzo Barchi, who initially had the idea for the exhibition – “but it’s also a form of transcendental meditation geared towards Sri Krishna and His pure devotee Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who are a source of endless inspiration and spiritual joy.”
As Sanjaya exclaimed in the last verses of the Bhagavad Gita, “when I remember the wonderful form of Lord Krishna, I am struck with even greater wonder, and I rejoice again and again. Wherever there is Krishna, the master of all mystics and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power and morality.”
An Italian / English bilingual catalog will be realized by Bhagavat Atheneum and Associazione Culture del Mondo, published by Kappabit with texts by Radhanath Swami, Marek Buchwald (Baradraj das), Francesco Gallo Mazzeo, Manuela De Leonardis and Iacopo Nuti (graphic design by Andrea Tabrini).