An installation made from bottle caps at the art festival “Young Zoom on Garbage” in Thimpu, 2010. Photo by Gelay Jamtsho and Dorji Wangchuk. Courtesy VAST Bhutan, Thimphu.



The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan’s first democratic government, elected in 2008, measures the success of all its activity in terms of the happiness it produces for its citizens. With cultural preservation as one of the pillars of Bhutan’s commitment to “Gross National Happiness,” government funding is focused on three institutions showcasing traditional Buddhist art: the National Museum of Bhutan, the National Folk Heritage Museum and the National Textile Museum. The development of Bhutan’s small contemporary art scene relies heavily on the support of private organizations.

The primary venue for contemporary artists is the Voluntary Artists’ Studio Thimphu (VAST), an NGO formed in 1998 by a group of artists in the nation’s capital. In May, VAST moved to a larger venue, located in the city’s main square, containing a new studio, gallery space, café and library. The invigorated Bhutanese arts hub reopened with an exhibition of paintings by its members and students (5/15–30), and in August held a four-day festival featuring artworks from “Young Zoom on Garbage” (8/26–29), a project initiated in June 2009 by Kama Wangdi, a VAST member and significant motivator of contemporary art in the region. Raising awareness of environmental pollution in Bhutan through educational community art projects, the festival showcased digital photographs, site-specific installations, paintings and videos that utilized, 
or were created in response to, garbage accumulated in the local area.  

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