First US museum to host major Sri Lankan exhibit

LACMA will host the first dedicated Sri Lanka exhibit in a North American Museum.

From George Rutnam and Patrick Rutnam in Los Angeles

The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka is the first comprehensive exhibition on Sri Lanka to be organized by an American museum. It includes an extraordinary range of artworks that showcase the diversity of Sri Lankan visual expression over nearly two millennia.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art LACMA, will be presenting a limited Exhibition for 7 months in honor of Sri Lanka’s 70th anniversary of independence.
“The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka” will be held from December 9th, 2018 – June 23rd, 2019. The presentation, which will be held with cooperation from the Sri Lankan Government, specifically the Sri Lankan Consulate to the western US in Los Angeles.


It’s worth noting that LACMA, located on Wilshire Boulevard in proximity to Hollywood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, is the largest museum in the western United States, and attracts more than 1.5 million visitors annually.
We sat with Mrs. Swarna Gunaratne, Consul General in Los Angeles, and her deputy Consul General Mr. Asoka Godawita to discuss this momentous event, from inception in 2016 to reception this upcoming December.

George Rutnam, Deputy Editor Sri Lanka Reporter with Patrick Rutnam, Los Angeles Correspondent meeting Swarna Gunaratne, Consul General in Los Angeles, Deputy Consul General Asoka Godawita.

Mrs. Gunaratne discusses the roots of this effort with great vibrancy and candor. She states, “This took fruition in September 2016. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, came to Los Angeles to elicit support for a multinational 70th anniversary tribute to Sri Lanka. He selected Los Angeles, because of our strong and supportive Sri Lankan community, to be the US location for this exhibit. But honestly, LACMA had initial interest to showcase our great country for some time. His visit solidified the mutual interest, and we met with LACMA officials to lay the groundwork for this exhibition. We’ve been working on this project for over 30 months now. I think you’re really going to be impressed with end result.”

Some of the items which will be on display.

I ask her what she hopes to accomplish with this event, to which she astutely replied, “This will provide access to the culture significance of Sri Lanka. It will provide yet another new way in which our Community can come together, and expand upon our upward trending image to the rest of the world.”
She also pointed out that Sri Lanka was tapped as Lonely Planet’s Best Country to Travel in 2019.

Mr. Godawita, Deputy Consul General in Los Angeles and former Consul General in Toronto, chimes in, “This will be a rare opportunity for Sri Lanka to Shine.”
And shine it will indeed, as the notion of jewels is apparent throughout the exhibition, including precious decorative objects fashioned from gold, silver, and ivory, among many precious gemstones mined in Sri Lanka. The presentation will also include photographs, art pieces, sculptures, and artifacts.


There will be soft launch hosted by the Sri Lankan Government on December 5th for the donors, trustees, and special guests. December 9th is when the exhibit is open to the public, and December 16th will be the official opening ceremony with High Court Sri Lankan and US Officials slated to attend.

One of the items which will be on display.

“Not only is this in honor of our great independence, but also our diplomatic ties with the United States. We welcome all Sri Lankans, Canadians, Europeans, Americans, locals, and people abroad to come take part in celebrating our rich and diverse culture! You will come away with an enlightened perspective on our great country. I really think this exhibit is going to be something very special. Can’t wait to see you there”, Mrs. Swarna states with exuberance.

“The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka” will be held at LACMA in the Resnick Pavillion from December 9th, 2018-June 23rd, 2019. LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036.