Collection 1980s–Present


Montien Boonma’s House of Hope



Montien Boonma. House of Hope. 1996–97. Herbs, spices, natural binders, cotton string, painted wood, and steel, 13' 1 1/2" × 9' 10 1/8" × 19' 8 1/4" (400 × 300 × 600 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Dakis and Lietta Joannou. © 2023 Montien Boonma. Courtesy of the Montien Boonma Estate
  • MoMA, Floor 2, 211 The David Geffen Wing

In House of Hope (1996–97) Montien Boonma invites us into an immersive space filled with thousands of prayer bead strands hanging above a pyramid of painted wooden steps. The surrounding wall painting suggests clouds or incense smoke from Buddhist temples. The artist crafted his pigments and beads from traditional Thai medicinal herbs and spices; the aromatic materials suffuse the gallery with scent. Boonma sought to create an atmosphere of bodily sensation: “When you enter a temple, it makes you warm . . . there’s the feeling that we will be given help—like having a father and mother to protect us.”

Boonma created this installation after his wife died from cancer in 1995. Her diagnosis the year before led the artist to immerse himself in Buddhist rituals of devotion and healing. “I was asking for a lot,” he said. “I was asking for the world to stop.” Boonma’s “house” explored the possibility of hope in a time of environmental disaster, industrialization, and the rise of global epidemics—crises that persist in the present, and that the work allows us to confront in new ways today.

Organized by Michelle Kuo, The Marlene Hess Curator of Painting and Sculpture, with Abby Hermosilla, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Curatorial Affairs.

With thanks to Apisit Nuongbua.

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