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Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

About this listing

Unique museum of Tibetan and Buddhist works planned and built by Jacques Marchais in the 1940s

Place Details

Borough : Staten Island
Neighborhood : Lighthouse Hill
Institution, What New Yorkers Find Beautiful, Arts and Entertainment, Asian/ Pacific/ American, Historic Site & Museum

Place Matters Profile

By Breanne Scanlon

Tucked away behind a stone wall on a hillside on Staten Island is an unlikely enclave of Tibetan art, culture, and spirituality. The story of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is inseparable from the story of Jacques Marchais, a woman who devoted her life to sharing her passion for Tibet and Buddhism with other New Yorkers.

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, now in its sixty-first year, was designed and built according to Marchais' vision and instructions. The museum was the culmination of Marchais' lifelong mission to connect Westerners with Tibetan culture and spirituality. Jacques Marchais Coblentz was born in 1887 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Her father insisted on giving her the male family name of Jacques Marchais despite the fact that she was a girl.) Marchais' first introduction to Tibetan art was as a young girl, when she came across her great-grandfather's collection of...

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Sources

Sarah Johnson, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, "From Staten Island to Shangri-La: The Collecting Life of Jacques Marchais," accompaniment to museum exhibit.

Correspondence with the Marchais' Executive Director Meg Ventrudo, Feb/Mar, 2008.

New York Times: Jacques Marchais obituary, Feb. 16, 1948; "Dalai Lama Gets Invitation Here," Apr. 15, 1959; "Shangri-La on Staten Island," Aug. 6, 1979; "Tibetan Art, on a Staten Island Hill," Oct. 18, 1985; "In a Temple Setting, Tibetan Artifacts," Oct. 1, 1989. [Posted, Apr. 2008]

Nominations

Tamara Coombs

This unusual museum resembles a small Tibetan mountain temple tucked away from the world. Terraced sculpture gardens, a lily and fishpond, and a distant view of the lower Hudson Bay add to the atmosphere of serenity and beauty. The Tibetan Museum is unique in displaying its art in a setting especially conducive to its understanding and enjoyment. (Oct. 2007)



Nominated during the Asian American Art Alliance's Locating the Sacred Festival Meg Ventrudo

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is the site of the oldest Tibetan style buildings in the United States. Designed to look like a Himalayan monastery, the Museum houses the finest collection of Tibetan art in the world. The site includes a meditative garden and a lotus and fish pond. Here, you can visit Tibet without leaving New York.

The buildings were constructed by Joseph Primiano, a noted stone mason on Staten Island in the early 20th century. Constructed on local fieldstone, the building has a flat roof and traditional Tibetan style windows in a trapezoidal shape. The Museum was built to resemble a Tibetan chanting hall and situated on the roof is a pagoda that resembles the rooftop of the Qing Emperor's summer palace in Jehol, China. The site is special and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (August 2012)


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