Rubin Museum of Art
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Beyond Chinggis Khan: Mongolian Buddhist Art from the Rubin Museum of Art

A selection of Mongolian sculptures, paintings, manuscripts, and other ritual objects, drawn from the Rubin Museum of Art's collection. This exhibition illustrates the flourishing of Mongolian Buddhist art from the seventeenth century onward. At the heart of the exhibition are Mongolian ritual dance masks, which were used in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for annual festivals that took place in monasteries across Mongolia. Under the guidance of Zanabazar (1635-1723), an exceptional artist and Mongolia's first incarnate lama, bronze casting reached a pinnacle of achievement in Mongolian art, a tradition that is represented in this exhibition by numerous fine bronzes.

Approximate Number of Works: 30 objects, including masks, sculpture, appliqué, and paintings

Bon: The Magic Word

Bon: The Magic Word is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on the art, culture, and spiritual tradition of Bon, an ancient religion and cultural system of the Himalayas, Tibet, and Central Asia that is little-known in the West. Bon pre-dates the spread of Buddhism from India to the Tibetan Plateau in the seventh century and, despite Buddhism's growth in popularity since the eleventh century, it has remained an important facet of regional Himalayan culture to this day.


As an introduction to Bon, this exhibition features artistic, ritual, and ethnographic objects that identify Bon's distinct aesthetics and archetypes, convey a profound belief in sacred geography, and distinguish aspects of Bon culture long associated with Himalayan civilization. Bon: The Magic Word illuminates a people that history has often overlooked, a culture that has been overshadowed by those more dominant, and a religious tradition that has often been overly simplified as an amorphous body of folk beliefs associated with shamanism, animism, and divination.

 

Approximate Number of Works: 40 to 50 including paintings, sculpture and ethnographic pieces

 

Earthly Immortals: Arhats in Tibetan Painting

Though long considered an isolated Shangri-La untouched by outside forces, Tibet is in fact a culture built on indigenous traditions and infused with foreign ideas. By the 14th century, Chinese art and luxury goods were pouring into Tibet as a result of political ties with the Mongol emperors of China. This massive influx had a profound effect on the development of Tibetan painting.

The sixteen arhats are believed to be either the actual disciples of the historical Buddha or later devout followers of his teachings. Both traditions honor the arhats as fully realized preservers and transmitters of Buddhist wisdom. They are believed to dwell on Earth in hidden realms, appearing on occasion to devotees in need. In both Chinese and Tibetan arhat paintings, the figures are portrayed as either idealized monks or as grotesque sages. Tibetan artists embraced Chinese ideas and combined them with distinctly Tibetan innovations, and their high level of skill, sophistication, and creativity is the focus of this exhibition.

 

Approximate Number of Works: 40-50 including paintings and sculpture

 

In the Shadow of Everest: Photographs by Tom Wool

In the Shadow of Everest presents photographer Tom Wool's images of life in the villages of Tibet's Rongbuk Valley. Taken over the course of four weeks in May 2001, Wool's photographs capture the Valley's rugged terrain, which stretches roughly thirty miles from the base of Mount Everest on the north side. Home to some 3,000 Tibetans, the Rongbuk Valley area is of distinct importance to the indigenous population for its sacred geography and religious history. Believed to be the place where earth touches the heav­ens, Mount Everest is called "Chomolungma" in Tibetan, meaning "Mother Goddess of the Earth." The valley is also home to the Rongbuk Monastery, the highest of any in the world at 17,000 feet above sea level.

Accompanied by two yakmen and a tiny horse, Wool followed the route taken during the first British expeditions through this area, including that taken by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine as they attempted their ill-fated Everest climb in 1924. Wool quickly came to realize how little this area had changed since those early expeditions. His photographs epitomize the Valley's harsh terrain that has been marked by mud brick homes, populated by Buddhist monks and yogis, and inhabited by yaks, sheep, and goats for centuries. Within several years of Wool's documentation, however, this remote area saw the encroachment of modernity when a road was created to bring the Olympic torch from Mount Everest to Beijing.

Approximate Number of Works: 16 photographs and 2 sculptures

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