Must-visit museums and galleries in Mongolia
Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, has experienced sweeping changes in attitudes towards its arts and culture.
From the celebrated religious artworks of monk and artist Zanabazar to the near destruction of Buddhist culture during the Communist purges of the 1930s, Ulaanbaatar is now steadily building a vibrant contemporary art scene that celebrates Mongolia’s long-standing cultural traditions, while encouraging modern art creation. Here are 5 must-visit museums and galleries when you travel to Mongolia.
Choijin Lama Temple Museum
Not only it is one of the most beautiful museums in Ulaanbaatar due to its location and architecture, it also perfectly represents Mongolian rapid development. It is named after Bogd Khaan VII’s brother Luvsankhaidav whose religious name was Choijin lama. This temple was built in 1908 for a religious purpose until it got vlosed in 1936. In 1942, it was reopened as a museum. With 5 different sections in the museum and special mosaic in front of it, it was preserved perfectly in its original location, creating an unusual but beautiful combination with newly built skyscrapers around it. The museum is open every day, but you can also attend some amazing events such as Monalun fashion show, and Night Museum where the national morin khuur ensemble performs breathtaking numbers in an open area of the museum.
Fine Arts Zanabazar Museum
Founded in 1966, the Fine Arts Zanabazar Museum is dedicated to the works of its namesake, Undur Gegeen Zanabazar (1635-1724), who was the first Resplendent Saint of Mongolia and is renowned for his contribution to Mongolian fine arts. Some of Zanabazar’s featured work includes his intricately sculpted brass statues of Buddhist goddess Sita Tara, the Five Dhyani Buddhas and the Bodhi Stupa, a Buddhist shrine. The museum, which boasts 12 galleries in total, also displays artwork from the 18th to 20th centuries, including beautiful coral masks and thangkas, as well as works by acclaimed modern painter Baldugiin Sharav, and regularly hosts contemporary art exhibitions. The museum building itself is steeped in history, built in 1905 by a Russian merchant, it was one of the first buildings designed in a European style and became a Russian military station in 1921.
Mongolia is famous for its dinosaur fossils. Most of the remains of the dinosaurs have been found in Mongolian Gobi, thanks to the sand’s nature of preservation. However, the first dedicated dinosaur museum has opened only in 2013, when a Tarbosaurus Bataar has been returned to Mongolia after a sensational scandal of the Denver auction. This amazingly preserved fossil has been stolen and trafficked to US. After the scandal was out, Mongolia president has returned the fossil back to Mongolia. Since then, this interactive, 3D museum centered in T-Bataar has become children’s favorite.
Marshal Art Gallery
Situated within a luxury apartment complex on the north-eastern edge of the Khan-Uul District, the modern and stylish Marshal Art Gallery showcases the works of both local and international artists, alongside a program of arts education and arts-related social activities aimed at promoting and supporting art creation in Mongolia. One of the most recent additions to Ulaanbaatar’s arts scene, the Marshal Art Gallery opened in May 2013. Within this short time, the gallery has exhibited artworks of home-grown talent, including internationally acclaimed Mongolian painter Bold Dolgorjav and young, up-and-coming artist B. Sodnomdarjaa. The gallery has also hosted, in association with Liu Dawei, artist and chairman of the Chinese Artists Association, an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art.
Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery
The gallery houses Mongolia’s most famous classic and modern art pieces since the socialist past. The gallery’s recent contemporary exhibitions have included a joint Mongolian-French exhibition, Nomadic Spirit in Ulaanbaatar, featuring French photographer Tim Desgraupes, which explored Mongolia’s evolving culture and people, juxtaposed with the rapid urban development of the capital city. Another recent exhibition, Nano World, mixed art with science, aiming to demonstrate the importance of nanotechnology through the medium of art.