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International Art Museum of America Changes San Francisco's Cultural Landscape

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

By Zezhi Zhang, Asia Weekly, September 29, 2019, Volume 33, Issue 38

International Art Museum of America (IAMA) is located in the central area of ​​San Francisco. The museum displays the works of more than 30 world-class Eastern and Western artists. After eight years of renovation, it has become a new art and cultural landmark in San Francisco. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III's "Yun Sculpture" work "A Pillar of the Sky" is on display in the museum, attracting many practitioners from around the world to sit and meditate.

H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III's Yun Sculpture artwork "A Pillar Celebrating the Sky"| IAMA

H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III

Oriental exhibits in the International Art Museum of America (IAMA) | IAMA

If one is driving on Market Street in the central area of ​​San Francisco, IAMA is located in the middle of the street. After its opening in 2011, the downtown area - which used to be noisy and chaotic - seemed to change its aura. Not only did the city look neater, tourists and residents also felt the extraordinary and incredible energy of Oriental art.

"This is a rare cultural landmark in the downtown community!" The local media in San Francisco described the changes that the art museum has brought to the community in the past eight years. Perhaps Americans have not been able to appreciate the ink and gold stones of Chinese artists Qi Baishi, Pan Tianshou, Xu Beihong, Zhang Daqian, and Huang Binhong. Their artworks are inspiring and soulful, especially the works of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III's "Yun Sculpture". It is impossible to explain how the creation appeared, not to mention how it would inspire the infinite future civilization.

In fact, the San Francisco city government has been promoting the "reengineering" plan of the city center for a long time. This plan involves not letting the old streets in the center be equated with the dirty and poor, which is not proportional to the development of the surrounding rich Silicon Valley. The media described the main policies of the city government in the past, including sponsoring street murals, but they have little impact on the revitalization of the community. Therefore, since 2011, the city government has turned to large-scale tax incentives and strongly encouraged global enterprises and art foundations to relocate to the downtown area, the most representative including technology companies Twitter and Blackrock Foundation.

In 2011, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III lent one hundred works to IAMA, laying the foundation for the richest and most important works in the collection, and had dialogue with the spiritual civilization of the world. In the same year, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III received the "World Peace Prize"- the foundation's highest honor in the United States. The chairman of the foundation was the former U.S. Congressman Lester L. Wolff. The democrat Wolff also participated in the "Taiwan Relations Act" draft, and he is one hundred years old this year. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III also received the Dr. Martin Luther International Leadership and Service Award.

IAMA is mainly operated by a foundation established by Asians and westerners. The members of the foundation include International Olympic Committee,IOC committee member- Chingkuo Wu, legal expert- Steven Meyers, and former Chairman of South California Kiwanis- Loretta Huang. When the art museum opened, Chingkuo Wu pointed out, "IAMA provided a stage for top artists to display their work, just like the Olympic Games every four years, providing a showcase for the world's top athletes." Samaranch, the lifetime honorary chairman of the Hispanic International Olympic Committee who passed away in 2010, served as the honorary director of IAMA.

"I expect myself to use art to promote ethnic and international harmony," said Loretta Huang, the first Chinese operating director of the Museum of Art. She pointed out that great works of art allow people to see the infinite realm of life and erase all slander and suspicion about the artists while making their skills and talents self-evident. Loretta Huang used the concept of " the silpakarmasthanavidya(craftsmanship vidya)" in Buddhist teachings to explain that art transcends worldly skills. Silpakarmasthanavidya (craftsmanship vidya) is one of the "Five Vidyas" of Buddhism. [five excellencies]. The five major vidyas are the the adhyatmavidya( inner realization vidya), the sabdavidya(sound vidya), the silpakarmasthanavidya(craftsmanship vidya), the hetuvidya(Buddhist logic vidya), and the cikitsvidya(healing vidya). You can find Bodhisattva through the five vidya; if one's five vidyas are perfect and fulfilled, he is the realm of Buddha from ten directions.

Loretta Huang graduated from Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan and then studied in the United States with a government-paid scholarship. She believes that the various figurative and abstract techniques of art are ultimately to enhance the intangible spiritual realm. For example, the former dean of the Academia Sinica Hu Shi described the Buddhist classic Vimalakirti Sutra as "the most beautiful of Buddhist literature." Buddhism is "intangible," but it has been passed down in literary form, while Vimalakirti is the nirmanakaya of Kiñjalka Tathagata in the pure land. Later Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei and others all used Vimalakirti as their pen name.

The interior design and planning of International Art Museum of America are handled by the Harvard University master architect Weiya Guan. Weiya is familiar with Eastern culture. She designed the small bridge and flowing water pavilion that can be seen first when someone enters the IAMA. The winding path is deep, when entering the grand halls, the colorful ceramic tiles on the ground are facing. Turning into the exhibition hall, two qilins stand in front of the door, and the courtyard is a space for artistic activities and community interaction.

Strict selection criteria for collections

After eight years of innovation, IAMA has become a new art and cultural landmark in San Francisco. It is supported by the community. It has three main elements. The first feature is that all works in the collection must meet the "basic standards" set by the board of directors. The selection criteria includes artists’ works collected by two or more world-renowned art museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the United States and Museum du Louvre in France. And their market auction value is at least US$200,000 per square foot. In addition, they must have a certain influence or status. If artworks of directors in art museums or deans in art academies in various countries can meet the collection standard, meaning the price of their works is higher than US$20,000 per square foot, their works can be collected too. At present, IAMA displays more than 30 world-class Eastern and Western artists, from the 17th to the 21st century, including Maurice de Vlaminck, one of the representative painters of French Fauvism, and the most influential academic French artist in the 19th century, Carolus Duran. Also Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, Chinese artists Yun Nantian, Huang Binhong, Qi Baishi, Pan Tianshou, Fu Baoshi, Xu Beihong, Zhang Daqian, Li Keran and other famous artists' works. Every work is a masterpiece, so it enhances the interaction between Eastern and Western culture.

Encyclopedia of Chinese Painting

The second feature of the art gallery is the complete world-renowned collection and technique presentation of the modern oriental ink painting school. In the past, ink paintings were called "Chinese paintings." Using brush and ink on rice paper and other calligraphy and painting tools, from the Northern Painting School to the Southern Painting School, from the dry pen to the ink pen, are all in the collection of IAMA. Especially the ink works whose prices have risen steadily in recent years. Artists such as Huang Binhong, Fu Baoshi, Zhang Daqian, etc. were frustrated because their works can be sold for one million US dollars per square meter now but not in their earlier years. The exhibition in the art museum is simply an "encyclopedia" of Chinese paintings in the past century.

H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III was born in Sichuan, China, and he served as the chairman of the Chinese Painting Research Association at the China Education, Science, and Culture Center in his early years. His various artistic creations are unique and easy for him. He was conferred the Distinguished International Master Award, and his certificate was awarded and signed by the then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III is known as Master Yiyun Gao, and later went to the United States to spread Buddhism. The US Senate’s Congressional records formally used "H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III" as the honorific. Leaders of religion in Taiwan and Hong Kong often visit H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III in America. Many Taiwanese practitioners also became monks at the Holy Miracles Temple in Los Angeles and Hua Zang Si Temple in San Francisco. People who knew him in his early years even revealed that H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III was proficient in Chinese medicine. He used to see 300 people voluntarily in his hometown every day and never charged, which was well-known and spread by people.

The third is that the works of Yun Sculpture are astonishing. In July 2003, thirty-four country members in the Organization of American States held a meeting in Washington, USA. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III exhibited Yun Sculpture work "A Pillar Holding Up Heaven". The Heads of States appreciated this fusion of light and the fog used in the Yun Sculpture was praised as a "gift from God to mankind." So it was displayed in the Gold Hall of the U.S. Capitol again in October, and a hundred senators signed for memorial. Then, the Yun Sculpture was displayed in IAMA in San Francisco.

"Yun Sculpture" refers to the use of multi-media materials (fiber reinforced plastics), which flow quickly and instantly condense to create an incredible three-dimensional space effect. It makes the visitors transcend the "three-dimensional space" vision. In the past, the most incredible natural scenery was the stalactite cave. Yun Sculpture stone caves were richer in color, and the scenery was mysterious and unpredictable. Natural fog and clouds appeared in the caves of the works. Who would carve the air into shape?

How does the two-meter-high physical structure like "A Pillar Holding Up Heaven" support the complicated and changeable skill of carving? Layer by layer, you can see the in-depth levels of color. So, how can you create these colors yourself? With just a few meters of space, how can you dig out a bottomless valley? A great work cannot even describe all kinds of mysteries. Loretta Huang used " the silpakarmasthanavidya (craftsmanship)" to explain that works are not only creations, but also a newly created art style. Creators do not want to disclose techniques, which is common in art conventions. However after 20 years, peers in the East and West and across the world were still unable to find the theory and consensus, which is quite rare.

Many people lingered in front of famous paintings and now there are many practitioners who come to sit and meditate in front of the "Yun Sculpture" works. It is no wonder that Juan Antonio Samaranch is willing to serve as the honorary director. One of his greatest achievements is to complete the Olympic Museum and make the Olympics a cultural treasure. Sculpture is the most important art in the museum, because more than 90% of the sculptures of ancient Greece that originated from the Olympics are about themes of sports. The collection of the Olympic Museum ranges from Terracotta Army to Rodin sculptures, but the exquisiteness of "Yun Sculpture" has never been seen before.

H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III no longer creates works, and he rarely shows up in public. In order to demonstrate the originality of art and avoid unnecessary slander, IAMA has cooperated with International Buddhism Sangha Association, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III International Cultural Institute, and Sanger Mission. They decided to announce their intent to establish a Blue Platform, allowing the duplication of "A Pillar Holding Up Heaven" from people all over the world.

The "Blue Platform" meaning originated from the "Lantai" of the Han Dynasty Imperial History Bookstore, which symbolized the objective and faithful preservation of records. If the same works are copied without error, they can receive up to 50 million US dollars as a reward. Since 2003, many modern artists have also been eager to try. In the past ten years, the development of technology has improved rapidly, including the development of 3D printing. Even though many years have passed, people still do not understand the proper ways to copy. In addition, even the methods of creation and manufacturing have different variations. It seems to have an immediate effect. It is useful to have simple, effective, fair and unmistakable touchstones to prevent malicious slanderers.

From verification to transcendence, this is the key to the success of IAMA in San Francisco. Professor Phillip King of the Royal College of Art served as the President of the Academician Association during its final year in 2004. He and the Dean Brendan Neiland in particular went to the British Embassy in Washington to present the Fellowship title and certificate to H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III on behalf of the college.

Artists and religious leaders are affirmed by the mainstream society. The most special thing about H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III is that he does not accept any sponsorship at all (In Buddhism, sponsorship is equivalent to offerings). This is a rare phenomenon in religious circles today. The topicality of the work drives multicultural dialogues and the curatorial model of different techniques and proofs. From this perspective, the influence of oriental art on urban life is to use the broadest artistic exchange to transcend religion, and also to assist people in the artistic exploration of the infinite possibilities of life.

Translation from Yazhou Zhoukan

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