Gonkar Gyatso



Painting, Photography

Gonkar Gyatso

*1961 in Lhasa, Tibet
Studied Fine Art in Beijing and London.

He is the founder of the contemporary Tibetan art gallery The Sweet Tea House and is currently based and working between London and Beijing. 

Gonkar Gyatso is a Tibetan born British artist. Born in 1961 in Lhasa, Gonkar moved to London in the late 90's on scholarship to the Chelsea School of Art and Design, where he attained his MA in Fine Art. (Gyatso studied Chinese Brush Painting in Beijing, attaining a B.F.A. and Thangka (traditional Tibetan scroll painting) in Dharamsala). He has been living and working in the West ever since.

Gonkar Gyatso’s current work comes out of a fascination with material and pop culture and a desire to bring equal attention to the mundane as well as the extraordinary, the imminent and the superfluous. These contradictions are often found in the same piece. His work can be very silly, uncanny, and even ironic and at the same time comes out of concerns that are shaping our times. As his own experience has been one that reflects a kind of hybridity and transformation his work also holds this quality. We are all repositories of our time and place and the work can not help but reveal the politics and cultures that have shaped him. Gyatso collects materials from around the world to construct his images and each work contains a kind of geographic specificity, relating to the time and place he is making the work, where he has been and the things that have touched him. Gyatso’s interest in signage and iconography have lead him to design his own stickers and signs which he incorporates into his work, sometimes they are collaged in and at others they stand on their own, each representing a social or political trend that he would like to bring to attention. Gonkar’s repetitive use of the Buddha and appropriation of our media saturated environments illustrates his interest in ubiquity, accessibility, often appropriating and even re-appropriating his own work. What once was “White Noise” becomes a cacophony of carefully composed images, beautifully constructed into an iconographic form or word. While graffiti is now considered it’s own art form, Gyatso is also interested in pushing the boundaries between, what some might say, is hi and low art and certainly takes a lot of his inspiration from the street. Gyatso is deeply moved by the need to preserve and celebrate his own culture and just as artists like Judy Chicago seeks to make the vernacular of womanhood part of our discourse or Glenn Ligon works to talk about Black Identity in America or Yinka Shonibare uses the textiles of his heritage to address issues of colonialism, Gyatso inserts Buddhist and Tibetan iconography into our daily lives. They all ask, where is our place? What is our role? And, where are we going from here? Just as the identity of Gyatso’s homeland, Tibet, can not be separated from religion and politics, the undeniable bond between the two has shaped his own sensibility as well.

His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Israel), The City Gallery (New Zealand), The Institute of Modern Art (Australia), the Rubin Museum of Art (New York) the Chinese National Art Gallery (Beijing), the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art (Scotland), the Courtauld Institute of Art (London), Burger Collection (Switzerland), the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam (Netherlands), and the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (Australia). Additionally he has participated in the the 53rd Venice Biennial (Italy), the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane (Australia) and the 17th Sydney Biennale (Australia). His work is held internationally in public and private collections.

Gonkar Gyatso is also a founder of the Sweet Tea House, a contemporary art gallery dedicated to showing Tibetan work, based in London. Gyatso was the recipient of a Leverhelm Fellowship in 2003 and was an artist in residence at Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.


1999–2000. M.A. (distinction) Fine Art. Chelsea College of Art & Design. London.
1980–1984. B.A. Hones, Traditional Chinese Painting. The Department of fine art. Central Institute of Nationalities. Beijing. China.

Selected Solo Exhibition:

2013-14. Gonkar Gyatso. Savannah School of Art and Design. Gallerie Pfriem Lacoste. France. Travelling to: Moot Gallery. Hong Kong.
2011-12. Three Realms. Institute of Modern Art. Queensland University Art Museum. Griffith University Artworks. Brisbane. Australia. 
2011. Institute of Modern Art and Griffith University. Brisbane. Australia.
2008. Gonkar Gyatso retrospective. Art Dubai 2008. Dubai.
1997. Gonkar Gyatso – Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist Art. International Cultural Centre. Helsinki. Finland.
2004. Tibetan Word – art of communication. The Sweet Tea House – Contemporary Tibetan art gallery. London.
2003. Pitt Rivers Museum. University of Oxford. Oxford. Leverhulme fellowships and Artist residence show.
1999. Contemporary Tibetan art – Gonkar Gyatso. The Sontsen House Gallery. Zurich. Switzerland.
1987. Modern Tibet Art of Gyatso. The Revolution Exhibition Hall of Tibet. Lhasa. Tibet.

Selected Group Exhibition:

2014. Tibet India, New Beginnings. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York. NY. USA,
2013. Freedom, just another word…. Mass MoCA. North Adams. Massachusetts. USA.
2013. The Weight of History. The Singapore Art Museum. Singapore.
2012. Seeking Shambala. Museum of Fine Art. Boston. Massachusetts. USA.
2012. Selected Works: New acquisitions from the QUT Art Collection. Queensland Institute of Technology. Brisbane. Australia.
2011. Buddha’s Trace. Kunstmuseum. Bochum. Germany.
2011. The Art of Mapping. The Air Gallery. London. England.
2011. The Artist as Rishi – L'artista come Rishi. International Centre of Contemporary Art. Rome. Italy.
2011. Decade of the Rabbit / Big Bang. White Rabbit. Sydney. Australia.
2011. Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond. Hood Museum of Art. Hanover (NH). USA.
2011. Drawn from Life. Abbot Hall Art Gallery. Cumbria. UK.
2010. Within Emptiness. 10 Chancery Lane Gallery. Hong Kong. China.
2010. Get It Louder. Sanlitun SOHO. Beijing. China.
2010. Identity Theft. Curated by James Putnam. Mimmo Scognamiglio Arte Contemporanea. Milan. Italy.
2009. Unbound: New Art for a New Century. Newark Museum. New Jersey. USA.
2007. Lhasa – New Art from Tibet. 798 Red Gate Gallery. Beijing. China.
2005. Limbers Due Tibet. Selected Group Show. Lyon City Gallery. France.
2005. From classic to contemporary – visions From Tibet. Rossi & Rossi and The Sweet Tea House. Contemporary Tibetan Art Gallery. London.
2010. Works on Paper. Rossi Rossi. London. UK.
2010. Scorching Sun of Tibet. Songzhuang Art Center. China.
2010. Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond. Rubin Museum of Art. New York. USA.
2010. World of Thousands. Space Station. Beijing. China.
2010. The Beauty of Distance, Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age. 17th Biennale of Sydney. Sydney. Australia.
2010. Mapping Identity. curated by Carol Solomon and Janet Yoon. Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. Philadelphia. USA.
2010. A Man is not a Tree. Galarie Sherin Najjar. Berlin. Germany.
2010. The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. Brisbane. Australia.
2009. Two voices. Jan Murphy Gallery. Bisbane. Australia.
2009. Tempting God. China Art Projects at the Depot Gallery. Waterloo. Australia.
2009. Making Worlds. The 53rd Venice Biennale. Venice. Italy.
2009. Tibet Art Now: on the threshold of a new future. Tibet Art Gallery. Temple. Amsterdam.
2009. Tibetan Visions: Contemporary Painting from Tibet. ASIA ONLUS. Rome. Italy.
2008. A Question of Evidence. Thyssen-Bornemilsza Art Contemporary. Vienna. Austria.
2008. Return to Lhasa. Red Gate Gallery. Beijing. China.
2007. Past & Present – Tibetan art – 13th to 21st century. Christopher Farr Courtyard Gallery. Los Angeles.
2007. Buddha and Christ-a sense of togetherness. The Sweet Tea House. London.
2007. Consciousness and Form – Contemporary Tibetan art. Rossi & Rossi. London.
2007. Hobby Horse – Yeah, Yeah Dada asia. Avanthay Contemporary. Zurich. Switzerland.
2007. Thermocline of new Art Asian Waves. ZKM/Museum of Contemporary Art. Karlsruhe. Germany.
2007. Tibetan encounters Contemporary meets tradition. Neuhoff gallery. New York. (organized by Anna Maria and Fabio Rossi).
2006. Oh! What a beautiful day – Peter Towse and Gonkar Gyatso's shred visions. Rossi & Rossi. London.
2006. Waves on the Turquoise Lake: Contemporary Expressions of Tibetan Art. CU Art Museum & The Colorado Collection. University of Colorado. Boulder.
2006. Tibet. Wereld Museum Rotterdam. Nederland.
2006. Courtauld Institute Of Art. London. Culture bound-East wing collection VII.
2006. Rethinking Tradition-Contemporary Tibetan artists in the West. Visual Art Gallery. Emory University. Atlanta. USA.
1999. Limbers Due Tibet. Lyon City Gallery. France.
1998. Visions From Himalaya Contemporary Tibetan Art. The Reality Room Gallery. Washington.
1989. The National Avant-Garde Fine Art Exhibition – 89. The National Art Gallery. Beijing.
1985-87. The Sweet Tea House Artists Group Show. The Sweet Tea House. Lhasa. Tibet.


2011. Singapore Tyler Print Institute. Singapore. Artist in Residence.
2003. The Leverhulme Trust. London. Leverhulm fellowships and Artist residence at Pitt Rivers Museum. University of Oxford.
2001. Southern Art. Hampshire. England. Year of Art 2000. Artist's residence.
1996. Central St. Martin's College of Art & Design. London Guest Artist scholarship.
1989-91. Centre Academy of fine art & Crafts. Beijing. China. Fellowship for contemporary crafts design.

Selected publications:

Apte, Savita. 2012. Gonkar Gyatso: Disconnected, Displaced, Dispossessed and Still Reaching for the Sky. in THREE REALMS: Gonkar Gyatso. Published by Griffith Artworks in association with the IMA and University of Queensland Art Museum. Brisbane. Australia.
Dell’Angelo, Andrea. Fillippo Lunardo. Paola Vanzo. 2011. Tibet. Art. Now. Tibetan Art between Tradition and Modernity. Association for International Solidarity in Asia. Rome, Italy.
Dinwiddle, David. 2009. „Gonkar Gyatso: Contours of Identity“. Art Asia Pacific. Issue 63 May/June 2009. page 132-139.
Golinski, Hans Hunter. 2011. Buddhas Spur. Kunstmuseum. Bochum. Germany. 
Gyatso, Nathalie. 2008. „Tibetan Art Today“. Artpress. Issue 347 July/August 2008. page 52-59.
Gyatso, Nathalie. Gonkar Gyatso: La  peinture tibétaine en quęte de sa propre modernité. Beaux Arts Peinture. Dessin Asie. France.
Harris, Clare. 1997. „Struggling with Shangri--‐La: The Works of Gongkar Gyatso“. In Frank Korom. Constructing Tibetan Culture: Contemporary Perspectives. World Heritage Press: Montreal. Canada. page 160-177.
Harris, Clare. 1999. In the Image of Tibet: Tibetan Painting after 1959. Reaktion Books. London. UK.
Harris, Clare. 2006. „From Lhasa to London: Gonkar Gyatso“. Art Asia Pacific (50). page 110-113.
Harris, Clare. 2006. „The Buddha Goes Global: Some thoughts towards a transnational art history“. Art History 29 (4). page 698-720.
Harris, Clare. 2007. „The Buddha Goes Global: some thoughts towards a transnational art history“. In Deborah Cherry. Fintan Cullen. Location. Blackwells. Oxford. page 166-188.
Harris, Clare. Ian Alsop. 2005. Visions from Tibet: A brief survey of contemporary painting. Rossi Rossi and Peaceful Wind. London. UK.
Ho, Michelle. 2013. Weight of History. In Weight of History. The Collector’s Show. Published by The Singapore Art Museum. Singapore.
Chiu, Melissa. Benjamin Genocchio. 2010. Contemporary Asian Art. Thams & Hudson. London. UK.
Li, Xianting. Gade. Haitao Zhang. Lei Fang. 2010. Scorching Sun of Tibet – Contemporary Tibetan Art Show. Red Gate Gallery. Rossi Rossi and Sweet Tea House. Beijing. China.
Martin-Chew, Louis. 2012. What You Own. in Three Realms: Gonkar Gyatso. Brisbane. Art Monthly Australia. May 2012 Issue. page 14-17.
McGlashan, Sean. Susan Pacitti (ed.). 2003. Sanctuary: Contemporary Art & Human Rights. Glasgow Museum. Glasgow. UK.
Prebish, Charles S. Martin Baumann (ed.). 2002. Westward Dharma: Buddhism beyond Asia. University of California Press. USA.
Putnam, James. 2010. Identity Theft. (Exhibition Catalogue) Mimmo Scognamiglio artecontemporanea. Milan. Italy.
Reilly, Maura. 2012. Gonkar Gyatso: A Product of Occupied Tibet. in THREE REALMS. Gonkar Gyatso. Published by Griffith Artworks in association with the IMA and University of Queensland Art Museum. Brisbane. Australia.
Rossi, Anna Maria. Fabio Rossi (ed.). 2006. Oh! What a Beautiful Day: Peter Towse and Gonkar Gyatso's shared visions. (Exhibition Catalogue). Rossi Rossi. London. UK.
Sand, Olivia. 2009. „Gonkar Gyatso“. Asian Art: the Newspaper for Collectors, Dealers, Museums and Galleries. December 2009.
Smith, Damien. 2010. Dependent arisal in the work of Gonkar Gyatso. (Exhibition Catalogue). China Art Projects at Melbourne Art Fair. Melbourne. Australia.
Topley, Barbara. Buddha Goes Global. Pitt Rivers Museum Newsletter. November 2010. University of Oxford. Oxford. UK.
Wallace, Brian. Tally Beck. 2008. Return to Lhasa. (Exhibition Catalogue). Red Gate Gallery. Beijing. China.