EDMONTON -- Ancient mythical beasts reproduced in bold, shimmering colours, are about to be showcased in Edmonton for the first time.

The University of Alberta’s Mactaggart Art Collection will present a rare collection of fine Asian textiles starting this week, called Dragons of the Tibetan Plateau.

The collection includes robes and textiles made of Chinese silks decorated with variations on Chinese dragon patterns.

Dragons of the Tibetan Plateau, U of A

The 11 pieces displayed in the gallery are a small part of a renowned 1,000 piece East Asian art collection, donated to the University in 2005 by Edmonton philanthropists Sandy and Cecile MacTaggart.

The couple began collecting art in the early 1960s and over 40 years, amassed holdings which included engravings, hand scrolls, albums, artifacts and textiles.

Dragons of the Tibetan Plateau, U of A

The generous donation remains the largest single gift to the University by an individual.

Jill Horbay, with the University of Alberta Museums, says this exhibit of exquisite designs and textures will offer guests a glimpse at an ancient culture from the 16th to 18th centuries.

“Visitors will be able to have a very rare opportunity to see these up close and personal,” said Horbay. “In some cases, not behind glass, which is a real treat for people to come and see the detail and all the amazing dragon patterns on these robes.”


Horbay says it’s the gift that keeps on giving, as the massive, world-renowned collection continues to be a source of wonder and educational experience for the university.

“The Mactaggart Art Collection is used daily here at the University for teaching. Research classes come in and use it. Professors come in and research it, grad students come in and study them,” she said.

“It’s a very important part of the university and is absolutely part of the academic mission in terms of teaching and research.”

Dragons on the Tibetan Plateau runs from Feb. 27 to May 1 at the Telus International Centre on the North Campus.

Dragons of the Tibetan Plateau, U of A