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Rubin Museum of Art (RMA) Presents Masterworks Jewels of the Collection

Some of the finest works of art from the Rubin Museum’s collection will be represented in Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection, opening March 11, 2011. Masterworks will highlight 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 will 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.

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 will 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 19th centuries will also be on view.

Life-size photographic reproductions of an entire sequence of murals from the Lukhang Temple, the Dalai Lamas’ Secret Temple near the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, will provide an exceptional opportunity for viewing Himalayan art at its most lavish. These 18th century wall paintings—inaccessible to the public until the late 20th century—uniquely depict esoteric meditation and yoga practices in vivid color and detail. The exceptional quality of these giclée reproductions allows for even better access to the paintings than is possible in the temple itself. The Rubin’s presentation of these murals marks the first showing of prints of this type and content in a museum.

Masterworks will also highlight the museum’s most notable recent acquisitions, all of which have rarely or never been exhibited before. Works of particular note on view during the first year of the exhibition include an immensely dense and colourful scroll painting of a group of protective deities from the 18th century; one of the few known large coral-studded masks from Mongolia in the world; and a recently restored embroidered image of Vajrapani that represents a unique image-making technique perfected by Tibetan Buddhist teachers under the lavish patronage of the Chinese court.

About the Rubin Museum of Art
RMA holds one of the world’s most important collections of Himalayan art. Paintings, pictorial textiles, and sculpture are drawn from cultures that touch upon the arc of mountains that extends from Afghanistan in the northwest to Myanmar (Burma) in the southeast and includes Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, and Bhutan. The larger Himalayan cultural sphere, determined by significant cultural exchange over millennia, includes Iran, India, China, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. This rich cultural legacy, largely unfamiliar to Western viewers, offers an uncommon opportunity for visual adventure and aesthetic discovery.

Rubin Museum of Art 150 West 17th Street, NYC, 10011

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