The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation - The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation

Search for:

The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation
Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation


Research Areas

The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation

Ho Family Foundation logo

Established in 2012 with a munificent endowment to The Courtauld from The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation of Hong Kong, the Centre reflects the Ho Foundation’s express interests in promoting education in the arts, and in encouraging cross-cultural understanding and the preservation of the Buddhist cultural heritage. 

A major role of the Centre focuses on the MA in Buddhist Art: History and Conservation. Recognising the global significance of the vast cultural heritage of Buddhism, this innovative MA combines, for the first time, the separate studies of Buddhism, Buddhist art and its conservation. Taught by a wide range of specialists, the multidisciplinary course will advance understanding and scholarship of what objects mean, how they are made, used and deteriorate, and foster appreciation of their significance and need for preservation.

In announcing the MA, Robert Y. C. Ho, Chairman of the Ho Family Foundation, remarked, ‘Until now, Buddhism and Buddhist art and its conservation have been studied separately. We are delighted to support the integration of these fields in a new program that will impact not only on academia but on the preservation of irreplaceable treasures around the world, treasures we see disappearing on a daily basis.’

Other activities of the Centre include conferences and public lectures, of which a forerunner was The Buddhist Art Forum  held at The Courtauld from 11 to 14 April 2012. Likewise addressing issues of the production, use, study, display and conservation of Buddhist art, the Forum brought together varied specialists and stakeholders from around the world to explore their connection, and the Proceedings are now published by Archetype and the book can be ordered directly from the publisher by emailing

Events in 2014 included the premiere of the TV documentary, Buddhist Art: a Fragile Inheritance, which focuses on The Courtauld’s conservation work in Asia, and a conference jointly organized with British Museum on the early Buddhist sculptures of Amaravati (India).

International Advisory Board 2017—2019

Pierre Baptiste                                        Curator of Collections, Southeast Asian Art, Musée National des Arts       Asiatiques-Guimet, Paris


Nick Barnard                                          Curator in Asian Department, Victoria & Albert Museum


Richard Blurton                                      Curator of South & South East Asian Collections, British Museum


Dr Anita Chung                                      Chief Operating Officer, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation


Robert Y. C. Ho                                      Chairman, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation


Ted Lipman                                             Chief Executive Officer, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation


Prof Donald S. Lopez Jr                         Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist & Tibetan Studies & Chair of the Department of Asian Languages & Cultures, University of Michigan


Dr Christian Luczanits                          Senior Lecturer, Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS


Prof Lukas Nickel                                   Professor of Asian Art History, University of Vienna; External Examiner for the MA in Buddhist Art: History & Conservation


Dr Alison Ohta                                        Director, Royal Asiatic Society


Jane Portal                                              Keeper of Asia, British Museum


Lisa Shekede                                           Rickerby & Shekede, Wall Painting Conservation


Dr Vincent Tournier                               Seiyu Kiriyama Lecturer in Buddhist Studies, Department of Religions & Philosophies, SOAS


Prof Roderick Whitfield                         Emeritus Professor of Chinese and East Asian Art, SOAS


ex officio                                                    Courtauld Institute                                             


Prof Anthony Eastmond                        Dean & Deputy Director; A.G. Leventis Professor in the History of Byzantine Art


Prof Deborah Swallow                           Marït Rausing Director


Sibylla Tringham                                    Lecturer, Conservation of Wall Painting Department


Dr Giovanni Verri                                   Reader, Coordinator of the MA in Buddhist Art: History & Conservation



The Art of Merit

The Art of Merit

Editors: David Park, Kuenga Wangmo and Sharon Cather
Archetype Publications 2013

Buddhist art – its nature, creation, function, conservation and contemporary manifestations – was the subject of the Buddhist Art Forum, a major conference held at The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2012 and sponsored by The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation. For the first time a representative group of those with a stake in Buddhist art – including art historians, conservators, curators and officials, a monk from Nepal and a contemporary artist – was gathered to address these issues.

The resulting ground-breaking volume has now been published by Archetype Publications. Its twenty-eight papers consider Buddhist art from the earliest Indian stupas to contemporary Himalayan thangkas, as well as its ritual use and audience, its tourist consumption in expanding economies, its often ill-conceived conservation, and its influence on modern and contemporary western art.

A stimulating range of viewpoints is expressed in this lavishly illustrated volume, making a genuine contribution to the awareness and understanding of these issues and developments that goes beyond regional and specialist boundaries.

Find out more

Looted, Recovered, Returned: Antiques from Afghanistan, Arhcaeopress Archaeology 2014Looted, Recovered, Returned: Antiquities from Afghanistan

J. Ambers, C. R. Cartwright, C. Higgitt, D. Hook, E. Passmore, St J. Simpson, G. Verri, C. Ward and B. Wills
Archaeopress Archaeology 2014

A detailed scientific and conservation record of a group of ivory and bone furniture overlays excavated at Begram, stolen from the National Museum of Afghanistan, privately acquired on behalf of Kabul, analysed and conserved at the British Museum and returned to the National Museum of Afghanistan in 2012.

The “Begram ivories” are widely considered to be miniature masterpieces of Indian art and are one of the largest archaeological collections of ancient ivories. They were excavated at the site of Begram, in northern Afghanistan, in 1937 and 1939 and belong to a period when Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India were united under rulers of the Kushan dynasty. Divided soon afterwards between the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul and the Musée national des arts asiatiques–Guimet in Paris, the collection in Kabul suffered a disaster during the civil war which ravaged the country during the early 1990s. Some of the pieces were successfully concealed by museum staff but most were stolen, hundreds have since been reported in different collections and very few have yet been recovered. In 2011 a group of twenty bone and ivory plaques was generously acquired for the National Museum of Afghanistan by a private individual. These were scientifically analysed, conserved and exhibited at the British Museum and returned to Kabul in 2012. This book describes their story from excavation to display and return, with individual object biographies and detailed scientific analyses and conservation treatments. It also discusses how these objects have attracted very different interpretations over the decades since their discovery, and how the new analyses shed a completely fresh light on the collection. It is lavishly illustrated in full colour, and includes many previously unpublished views of the objects when they were originally exhibited in Kabul. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the archaeology of Afghanistan, Indian art, polychromy, museum studies, object biographies or the history of conservation.

Find out more

The Study and Conservation of the Silk Painting 'Death off the Buddha', Archetype Publications 2014The Study and Conservation of the Silk Painting Death of the Buddha

Keisuke Sugiyama, Tim Clark, Janet Ambers and Giovanni Verri
in Technical Research Bulletin, ed. David Saunders, Vol. 8, Archetype Publications 2014

The painting of Death of the Buddha (1913,0501,0.40) has probably never been on display at the British Museum since it was acquired in 1913 due to its poor condition at that time. This fifteenth-century Buddhist painting was recently fully conserved and remounted as a hanging scroll. What is known of the painting’s history is explained and its condition before treatment is described as background to a full account of the entire treatment process. The successful conservation and mounting of a complex painting on silk as a hanging scroll requires a great number of treatment stages, each involving hundreds of careful steps. The overall procedure is here dealt with in three categories: conservation, mounting and the scientific analysis that helped to inform the treatment.

Find out more

Contributions to An Unbroken History: Conserving East Asian Works of Art and Heritage. Preprints of the IIC 2014 Hong Kong Congress.

IIC 2014

Conservation Research At Dunhuang: The Pivotal Role Of Cave 260 For Conservation Education And Policy

Sharon Cather, Xudong Wang, Bomin Su, Stephen Rickerby, Lisa Shekede and Xiaowei Wang.

New Approaches To Conserving The Wall Painting Heritage In Bhutan

Stephen Rickerby, Lisa Shekede, Dorjee Tshering, Tshewang Gyalpo and David Park.

Vast and Dispersed: Developing Portable Facilities for Non-Invasive Analysis and Recording of Heritage Sites in China

Bomin Su, Zongren Yu and Sharon Cather

Past events

11-14 April 2012 Conference
The Courtauld Institute of Art

Find Out More About Buddhist Art Forum

3-4 May 2013 Conference
The Courtauld Institute of Art and V&A

Find Out More About Buddhist Art and its Conservation

8 November 2013
Professor Stanley Abe, Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Duke University The Courtauld Institute of Art

Find Out More About Moving Buddha: Imagining Sculpture in China

30 October 2014 Lecture
Claudio Seccaroni, Cultural Heritage Section of the National Agency for New Technologies [ENEA], Italy
The Courtauld Institute of Art

Find Out More About The Invisible Secrets of Tibetan Thangkas

29 January 2015 Lecture
Françoise Pommaret, CRCAO/CNRS, Paris, and Adjunct Professor, ILCS, Royal University of Bhutan
The Courtauld Institute of Art

Find Out More About Buddhist Art in Bhutan: A Distinctive Iconography

22 February 2015 Lecture
Fung Lam, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Composer-in-Residence
The Courtauld Institute of Art

Find Out More About Composer’s Talk: Quintessence – A Musical Depiction of Spritiual Journey

Share This

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Close