Gateway to Himalayan Art and The Tibetan Shrine Room
July 23, 2010 - January 6, 2014
Gateway to Himalayan Art acquaints visitors with the principal concepts of Himalayan art and its cultural contexts. A large multimedia map orients visitors to the geographic scope and diversity of the Himalayan region and adjacent cultural areas that comprise the greater Himalayan cultural sphere, including parts of India, China, and Mongolia. From there, visitors are invited to explore four main sections: Figures and Symbols, Materials and Techniques, Purpose and Function, and Tibetan Art in Context, which includes the Rubin Museum's Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room.
The exhibition as a whole provides visitors with tools for contextualizing and understanding the rich artistic traditions presented throughout the Museum. Large format graphic panels in the exhibition explain symbols and gestures used in Himalayan Hindu and Buddhist works of art. A three-dimensional installation presents in detail Nepalese lost wax technique in its six stages. Methods of thangka painting with ground mineral pigments and iconometry (guidelines for proportions) are explained with grid drawings alongside an actual painting of the same subject. In addition to paintings and sculpture, objects such as a stupa, prayer wheel, and ritual implements demonstrate that the accumulation of merit, the secular concerns of long life, wealth, and spiritual gains are sought by patrons, and hoped to be fulfilled through ritual use of these objects.
A Looking Guide, filled with tips for easy recognition of the Buddhist figures and symbols in this and other exhibitions throughout the Museum, is available as a take-home brochure.
Curated by Karl Debreczeny and Elena Pakhoutova
Bring a Friend for Free!
Download and print the Bring a Friend for Free coupon to receive complimentary admission for your guest at the Rubin Museum of Art.
Download Coupon Now
The Tibetan Shrine Room from the Alice S. Kandell Collection, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
A spectacular shrine room on loan from the Alice S. Kandell Collection and organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution provides Gateway to Himalayan Art visitors an extraordinary opportunity to experience Tibetan Buddhist art in context. Containing approximately 170 works of art created between the 13th and 19th centuries from the Tibetan Plateau, China, and Mongolia, the shrine room highlights the religious context in which these sacred objects would be found in a private Tibetan shrine.
All of the objects - thangkas as well as sculptures of buddhas, bodhisattvas, tantric deities, female deities, wrathful deities and teachers - are arranged on traditional Tibetan furniture and according to the hierarchy they assume in Tibetan Buddhist practices. Ritual objects, such as butter lamps, offering bowls, vajras and bells, rosaries, conch trumpets, horns and reeds, and hand drums, are also on view. Thangka paintings from the collection of the Rubin Museum of Art have been added to the installation.
An accompanying publication, A Shrine for Tibet: The Alice S. Kandell Collection, is available at the Shop. The catalog features extensive full-color photography, a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and essays by Robert A.F. Thurman, the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and co-founder of Tibet House, and Marylin M. Rhie, the Jessie Wells Post Professor of Art and professor of East Asian Studies at Smith College. 299 pages; $60.
Curated by Elena Pakhoutova and Martin Brauen
To learn even more about The Tibetan Shrine Room, read the press release.
Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
Opening July 18, 2013
A new Shrine Room, comprising nearly 130 objects, replaces the exhibition that has been on loan from the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, since 2010 with objects largely from the Rubin Museum’s own collection, complemented by a few select loans. The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, part of Gateway to Himalayan Art, is one of the most visited and popular galleries at the Rubin Museum. Recreating the aesthetics and spirituality of a traditional Tibetan shrine room, it offers viewers the opportunity to experience Tibetan religious art in its cultural context.
Scroll paintings (thangka), sculptures of buddhas, bodhisattvas and tantric, female, and wrathful deities and portraits of teachers are arranged on traditional Tibetan furniture and according to the hierarchy they assume in Tibetan Buddhist practices. Such practices involve the use of ritual objects such as butter lamps, offering bowls, vajras and bells, hand-held drums, prayer beads, conch trumpets, and horns and reeds, which are also on view. Ornamental textile decorations of brocade silk, made by traditional masters of appliqué craft and hung on the ceiling and pillars are included in the Rubin Museum’s presentation. The room, as with the previous installation, is complete with simulated flickering butter lamps and tables with low cushions normally present during religious practices.
The design of the Shrine Room accommodates these various objects while incorporating elements of traditional Tibetan architecture and color schemes used in Tibetan homes. Special wooden cabinets, often intricately carved and painted and called cho sham in Tibetan, are usually built to fit the space of a shrine room’s main wall. The Rubin Museum commissioned a group of Tibetan carpenters to create one such cabinet for the central part of the Shrine Room installation. The installation will be accompanied by an interactive touch screen that will feature paintings, sculptures, and ritual items lent to the Museum as well as many of the Museum’s own newly acquired and permanent collection objects.
The Museum will rotate its display every two years to present the four Tibetan religious traditions. The first installation reflects the Ancient Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist tradition as embraced by its later proponents. Among the main subjects found in the paintings and sculpture are Padmasambhava, the Lotus Born Teacher, Avalokiteshvara, the long-life deities such as Amitabha, Ushnishavijaya, and White Tara, and the Lion-faced Dakini, Simghamukha. Future installments of the Shrine Room will feature specific traditions such as Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug.
Audio Tours & Verbal Description Resources
Click here to download the Looking Guide created for the exhibition. The booklet is designed to help visitors recognize common symbols and important figures that can be seen in the art throughout the museum.
Behind the Scenes Blog
Take a look at how the Rubin Museum staff worked to create the museum's new introductory exhibition. Click here to launch.
Explore the principal concepts of Himalayan art, including important deities and symbols, the materials and techniques used in creating works of art, and the purposes and functions of these works in their sacred and secular contexts through online interactives. Our online interactive collection continues to grow as the Gateway to Himalayan Art exhibition evolves.