On August 22, 2023 , Alice Kandell offered a last visit to her private Tibetan Shrine room to fifty friends and experts before it was packed and moved to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), a generous donation that will go on view during the summer of 2024, exactly as it was in her home on the Upper East Side in New York City.
“I’d like to ask you all to join me in a toast to Alice Kandel and her Shrine“, said Dr. Katherine Luber, Mia’s Nivin and Duncan MacMillan director and president.
“It’s wonderful to be gathered here together on this auspicious occasion. Alice Kandell has made an extraordinary gift to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Our museum has long been known for its strength in Asian art, including the arts of China and Japan. We’re building an incredible collection of South Asian art, too. Now, because of Alice’s generosity, we are going to be able to boast one of the great, great examples of Tibetan art. Her gift is truly transformative. Please, all of us, all our friends, raise a glass together to celebrate Alice, her generosity, her passion for art. To Alice!“
Guests included many members of the Mia’s board of directors, scholars, curators, as well as Jonah Bokaer, Simon Van Booy, Katherine Crockett and Biran Weston, Isabella Rupa De Conti-Mikkilineni, Lee Fryd, Michèle Gerber Klein, Helen Little, Ken Lipper, Arthur Lubow, Ellie Manko, Geeta Mehta, Liane Pei, Father Philip Rodko, Dr. Bradley Strauchen-Scherer, John Bigelow Taylor, Barbara Tober, and Amei Wallach.
Dressed in all white, Alice Kandell shared her history,
“You’re probably all wondering why I started collecting Tibetan art. As a student at Sarah Lawrence College in the 60s, I was going on a class trip to Russia and one of my friends in the class wanted to put Tibet on the itinerary. My parents objected because of the unrest related to the Chinese occupation there. A close friend, Hope Cooke, tried anyways and got as far as India. There she met the Crown Prince of Sikkim (an independent Buddhist country bordering Tibet), and eventually, she married him. In the course of time, while I was still a graduate student at Harvard, the King of Sikkim died, and I received an invitation to Hope’s coronation and her husband King.
I spoke to my professor asking for a leave of absence and he sagely said., ‘when fantasy becomes reality, a member of the Harvard Psychology Department should be there to witness’. Inspired by the beauty of the country, I returned many times after.”
Alice Kendell’s gift consists of over two hundred historic Tibetan Buddhist art objects – including a clock and a phonograph from England that belonged to the Dali Lama. Also gilt bronze statuary, paintings of spiritual realms, ritual implements, furniture, and textiles – that will be installed in the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) Himalayan art galleries.
The Shrine Room will be exhibited as it would have in an aristocratic family home or small temple in Tibet’s past.
This is the second time Alice has given a significant collection to a public institution; The Tibetan Buddhist shrine room at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art was a gift in 2010 on the occasion of the exhibition In the Realm of the Buddha: The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection.
Photos by: Jared Siskin / M. Paradis