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The BARTHOLOMEW FAMILY COLLECTIONS
For 25 years the largest private Buddhist Art Heritage Collection from Bhutan has been stored away and never revealed to the world. This Collection consists primarily of antique Buddhist textiles and other sacred religious artifacts from Bhutan totaling over 300 items.
The Bartholomew Family Collection of Bhutan Textile Art seeks either a permanent home for the complete Collection to be made available both to scholars and a wider public, or through partial sales to fund exhibitions, preservation, studies and future publications for the GreenHeart Foundation. Ideally sales would generate sufficient income to establish a PhD Studentship at an institution with an international reputation in Asian Culture & Art, using this Collection as the basis for detailed study.
Mr. Bartholomew is a cultural anthropologist and published author of the first definitive book on Bhutan Textile Art and Culture, Thunder Dragon Textiles from Bhutan, Shikosha (Publisher), Kyoto, Japan, 1985. Bartholomew collected nearly all of his pieces between 1976 and 1982. This is a period of time when the significance of Bhutanese Textiles was not recognized and only Bartholomew, along with very few others, were aiming to preserve these traditions. In Bartholomew's case, the primary objective was the establishment of a collection which would inform future generations of the importance of this cultural heritage from Bhutan.
Bartholomew primarily obtained his collection through barter with the Bhutanese Royal Families, high-ranking members of the Royal Government of Bhutan, and top religious leaders/Rimpoches of Buddhism in Bhutan. This trade was conducted outside of Bhutan, in India and Nepal. This provenance makes it unique to the world.
Royal Bhutan Government “Endorses” the Bartholomew Collection
THE ROYAL BHUTAN GOVERNMENT has stated in recent communications in 2009, that they support and recognize the importance and sole proprietary rights of the Bartholomew Collection of Sacred Bhutan Art.
The letters from May 2009 referred to the “very important art collection” held by the Bartholomew family. In recent conversations and communications with The Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigme Thinley, one of Mr. Bartholomew’s oldest friends in Bhutan, as well as the Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tsering they stated through the Foreign Secretary that they hope that Mr. Bartholomew will “take the right decision in the best interest of this very important art collection."
In the past there have been questions about the proprietary rights and any restrictions in relation to the Bhutan Art Collection which was collected by Mr. Bartholomew, outside of Bhutan in India and Nepal during the 1970′s.
The Collection is now looking for benefactors and a final “Home of Honor” to initially reveal its 300 textiles plus artifacts, which have yet to be seen by anyone in its entirety.
For any inquiries please contact us directly.
“The Lost Treasures of Bhutan”? Wall Street Journal
THE LOST TREASURES OF BHUTAN
Bhutan Textile Art
It is now a decade since the Wall Street Journal ran articles on the Bartholomew Collection referring to the “Lost Art of Bhutan”, and while such headlines appeared to make good journalistic copy, the fact was, and remains that the headlines were misleading in that these treasures were never lost. The artistic treasures under discussion are a unique collection of over 300 items of exquisite Bhutanese textiles, much of which was formerly owned by the Royal Family of Bhutan. The Collection remains in storage waiting full cataloguing and eventual display. It is currently the property of the Bartholemew family from the USA.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal in August 2001, KAREN MAZURKEWICH wrote of the world's greatest collection of textiles from the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, and noted that it was Bartholomew who had first revealed to the world the exceptional beauty of the textiles of Bhutan. To some extent Ms. MAZURKEWICH was writing on trust since what is remarkable about this tale is that the Collection has never been opened to public view. Almost 10 years after the original story the situation is, for the most part unchanged.
It is, of course not unknown for private collectors of a reclusive nature to hoard their collections either because they want no one to share in their good fortune in owning items of rarity or beauty, or because the story of how their collection was amassed would not stand up to public scrutiny. Neither of these situations remotely applies in the case of the Bartholomew Collection. MarkO Bartholemew is a relaxed, outgoing 50 something who wears his heart on his sleeve and has been at the forefront of many campaigns for improvement of the human condition. He is currently working to help secure the removal of unexploded ordnance (bombs, grenades, mines) from the countryside of Laos, where in a bitter legacy of the Vietnam War, hundreds of people are killed or maimed each year by devices largely left by US forces on their secret bombing raids in the 1960s.
Nor are there any issues over the provenance of the Collection, a fact recently confirmed by the Royal Bhutanese Household. Essentially, throughout the 1970s and 1980s members of the Royal Family individually sold off beautiful and valuable items of what might have been seen as a national treasure. If not quite like selling off the UK Crown Jewels, which are the property of the State and not of the ruling monarch, their sale represented a huge cultural and historic loss for this small nation.
They were in part sold to a number of small time collectors but it seems that probably only Bartholomew recognized that they had an importance greatly in excess of their beauty and sale value, and he sought to assemble a collection of the most culturally important items with a view maintaining the integrity of the overall collection and its eventual public display in a coherent manner either in Bhutan itself or elsewhere. But we are talking of events that occurred over a quarter of a century ago. What has happened in the meantime?
The answer is very little. A number of items from the Collection have found their way into major galleries in Asia and the Americas, but for the most part it remains complete, unseen and increasingly at risk from the depredations of modern life. Some of the items are illustrated in Bartholemlew's own book, Thunder Dragon Textiles from Bhutan, Shikosha (Publisher), Kyoto, Japan, which was published to critical acclaim in 1985, but beyond that the Collection remains but a mystery; not hidden from public view, simply not accessible. Any mystery invites speculation and rumour, and in the case of this collection rumour has tended to coalesce around the issues of whether the collection even exists, and whether its most valuable and culturally significant elements have been quietly disposed of over the years. Bartholomew vigorously denies such rumours and is eager to rise to the challenge by displaying the entire collection at the first real opportunity.
Why the mystery?
The Bhutanese authorities were offered The Collection, but perhaps curiously, advised Bartholemew that he should deal with it as he wished without further reference to the State or Royal House of Bhutan. One can only conclude that embarrassment about "selling off the family silver" remains rife in Bhutan and that it is a subject that no one wishes to discuss at the present time. Barthomlew himself simply lacks the resources to catalogue, insure, and display his collection, so it lies today, as 25 years ago, in storage, unloved and unknown.
Currently, in the event of Bartholemew's death it is assumed that the Collection would be sold off piecemeal on the open market by executors eager to maximize the value of the estate, but with concurrent and irredeemable loss of the integrity of the works as an entire collection. To avoid this situation he is now actively seeking a major sponsor who can take over the Collection as a whole and ensure that future generations of scholars and art lovers across the world are able to access and enjoy these remarkable spiritual, cultural and artistic artifacts. Failing that, he faces the prospect of disposing of some small part of the collection in order that the majority of it can be saved and curators, researchers and textile preservationists appointed to safeguard the Collection for the future.
So, this world's greatest collection of textiles is neither lost nor forgotten, merely neglected and in need of a permanent home. It would be tragic if the same situation applied in a further decade's time.
History of the “Bartholomew Collection”
Provenance of The Bartholomew Collections
It is generally accepted that “provenance” is the preeminent factor in determining the cultural art historical significance, rarity, and value of any particular art object. In the case of Bhutan Art in Textiles, Mr. Marko Bartholomew’s Bhutanese textile collection, the provenance of his pieces is simply in a class of its own, predating other collections by more than a decade.
No other textile scholar, collector, or merchant had such direct contact with these Royal individuals during this period. Given Mr. Bartholomew’s pioneering endeavors in this field, he was able to locate and acquire a tremendous number of pieces that were only available at this time, when Bhutan first opened her doors to the world in 1976.
Most of these pieces were acquired between 1976 and 1982 directly from their original owners. MarkO took possession of these pieces outside of Bhutan’s borders, mainly in northeast India and Nepal. This singular provenance is in fact the distinguishing characteristic and hallmark of this unique and unsurpassed collection.
Mr. Bartholomew is in ongoing discussions with Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan and the Royal Government of Bhutan since his third Royal Government invitation to Bhutan in June, 1999. This invitation was from Foreign Minister Lyonpo Jigme Thinley. During his 5-week stay, Mr. Bartholomew was granted a 3-hour audience with Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck. During this time, both the Royal Family and the RGB stated clearly that the propriety and future placement, including sales and exhibitions of Mr. Bartholomew’s collection, would be solely determined and executed by Mr. Bartholomew or subsequent owners, with Bhutan Textile patters no violation or infringement upon the Royal Government of Bhutan.
The Wall Street Journal (“Bhutan’s Lost Art”, 09 August 2001) calls Marko Bartholomew a world-recognized expert on Bhutan textiles, “an American…who has amassed the world’s greatest collection of textiles from the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.” The Asian Wall Street Journal adds (10 August 2001) that it was Mr. Bartholomew “who first revealed to the world the exceptional beauty of weavings from Bhutan.”
Beyond their acknowledged value as one of the world’s most intricate and complex textiles, virtually all of these historic heirloom pieces possess some combination of royal, mystical, mythological, religious, and anthropological attributes.
Presently, the Bartholomew Collection encompasses an unparalleled collection including the most historically significant Bhutanese textiles known.
* The oldest known “Triple Jewels” in the world, which comprise the Tikhep, or royal throne cover; the Shingkha, or applique shaman’s tunic, and the Kishung, the brocaded shaman’s tunic.
* The widest array of the best-preserved Royal Throne Covers in the world
* The Throne Cover of the first King of the Wangchuck Dynasty.
* An original silk Dragon Crown of the 2nd King of the Wangchuck Dynasty.
* Ceremonial shaman tunics formerly worn by some of the most revered holy people of Himalayan Buddhism.
* Rare ceremonial dress pieces worn by nobles and royalty.
I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those showing interest and giving consideration to this project, which is the culmination of my 35-year Quest with the Thunder Dragon of Bhutan.
Bhutan Textile Heritage
Since the beginning of the history of Bhutan, textiles have been considered among the highest forms of artistic and spiritual expression. A unique weaving methods and skills were developed which led to the creation of textiles of exceptional beauty and craftsmanship. The Bartholomew Collection is the world's largest collection reflecting this religious and cultural art heritage from Bhutan.
The Significance of Bhutanese Textiles:
- Aesthetic Value: Bhutanese textiles represent the most intricate patterning of any textile art in the world.
- Unique Craftsmanship: The methods and skill applied for the creation of these textiles are unparalleled in textile art history.
- Functionality: These were textiles that played a critical role in all religious, official and social events.
- Spiritual Significance: According to the Buddhist scholars, symbols and design elements represent glyphs of ancient wisdom.
The Bartholomew Bhutan Collection
After 35 years of dedication to a dream which began in 1972, MarkO Bartholomew has amassed the largest and most comprehensive collection of Bhutanese textiles in the world.
Having collected these treasures since moving to the Himalayas in 1975, he was one of the first people to document and promote the unique culture and textile arts of Bhutan. In 1978, Mr. Bartholomew held his debut exhibition and published an accompanying catalogue for the Museum for Textiles in Toronto, Canada. In the ensuing decade, further collecting and research resulted in Thunder Dragon Textiles from Bhutan, the first major documentation of Bhutanese textile art heritage. The 1985 publication of this book in Kyoto, Japan coincided with the opening of an exhibition hosted by the Seibu Art Gallery in Tokyo, featuring 150 representative pieces from the Bartholomew Collection.
Bhutan’s limited open-door policy, instigated in 1975, spawned a global interest in Bhutan and particularly in its rich textile arts. This generated renewed interest from collectors and major museums, many of which have since purchased important Bhutanese textiles directly from the Bartholomew Collection to augment their own permanent collections of Asian textile art. Among these are the following institutions:
* The Osaka Ethnographic Museum -Japan
* Kiryu City -Japan
* The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
* The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts -Minneapolis, Minnesota
* The Cultural Art History Museum -The University of California Los Angeles
* The Museum of International Folk Art -Santa Fe, New Mexico
* The Royal Ontario Museum -Toronto, Canada
* The Museum for Textiles -Toronto, Canada
Presently, the Bartholomew Collection encompasses an unparalleled collection including the most historically significant Bhutanese textiles known. Included are such treasures as:
* The widest array of the best-preserved Royal Bhutanese Throne Covers in the world
* The Throne cover of the first King of the Wangchuck Dynasty
* An original silk Dragon Crown of the 2nd King of the Wangchuck Dynasty
* Ceremonial shaman tunics formerly worn by some of the most revered holy people of Himalayan Buddhism
* Rare ceremonial dress pieces worn by nobles and royalty
* Utilitarian fabrics that continue to mystify western textile experts with their unique intricacy of design and weaving techniques.
The scope, uniqueness, rarity, and importance of the Bartholomew Collection is unsurpassed.