The Lukhang Murals of Tibet at the Rubin Museum of Art

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Some of the finest works of art from the Rubin Museum’s collection are presented in Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection. Masterworks highlights the stylistic diversity and relationships between different strands of Himalayan and neighboring cultural and artistic traditions. Together, the museum’s recently redesigned introductory exhibition Gateway to Himalayan Art and Masterworks provide visitors with the fundamental knowledge to understand and contextualize many of the works of art throughout the museum. Masterworks will remain on view for five years with a series of scheduled object rotations throughout that time. 

Lukhang East Wall, two Mahasiddha b 9 x 13 life size [Credit: Art Daily]

The exhibition is organized geographically, setting the diverse regional traditions of West Tibet, Central Tibet, East Tibet and Bhutan in relation to the neighboring areas of India, Kashmir, Nepal, China, and Mongolia. Visitors can explore the major strands of the development of Himalayan art, covering a period of over one thousand years, as well as some regional artistic traditions in their wider cultural, geographic, historical, and stylistic interrelationships. For example, artistic traditions of Nepal and South-Central Tibet are juxtaposed with distinct early Tibetan examples. East Tibetan artistic traditions are similarly contrasted with artistic traditions of China and Mongolia. 

Over the next five years, Masterworks will include representations of a wide range of Buddhist and Hindu deities, rendered in all major media including stone, metal, wood, ground mineral pigments on cloth, paper, appliqué, ivory, silk, ink, and papier-mâché. An inscribed metalwork lion throne from Karakorum Highway (now in northern Pakistan) is the exhibition’s earliest work, dating to the early 7th century. Works from the 9th through 20th centuries will also be on view. 

Life-size facsimiles of an entire sequence of murals from the Lukhang, the Dalai Lamas’ Secret Temple near the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, provide an exceptional opportunity for viewing Himalayan art at its most lavish. The original 18th century wall paintings—inaccessible to the public until the late 20th century—uniquely depict the most esoteric of meditation and yoga practices in vivid color and detail. Created with new photographic methods by Thomas Laird and Clint Clemens, this display of large-format, high resolution pigment prints allows for even better access to the paintings than is possible in the temple itself. Their presentation at the Rubin marks the first showing in the world of prints created using this technology, and also provides the first ever opportunity outside Tibet to view life-size Tibetan murals in their relationship to portable art from the region. 

Masterworks also highlights the museum’s most notable recent acquisitions, all of which have rarely or never before been exhibited. Works of particular note on view during the first year of the exhibition include an immensely dense and colorful scroll painting of a group of protective deities from the early 19th century featuring the 9th Dalia Lama; one of the few known large coral-studded masks from Mongolia in the world; and a recently restored embroidered image of Vajrapani made in the Chinese Imperial court.  

Source: Art Daily [March 22, 2011]

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