Gateway to the Himalayas

The Rubin Museum of Art is one of my favorite museums to visit alone. It’s pretty small compared to other museums (like the Met) but each floor works together to create a calming atmosphere that I find myself yearning for again and again.

Gateway to Himalayan Art

This exhibit paves the way for a basic understanding of the key images and concepts represented in Himalayan art. As someone who wasn’t really familiar with art from this region, I really appreciated the way the space is set up; it introduces images one at a time before showing works that incorporate multiple concepts (but by then, you would know what they are).

The first topic addressed is …

What does it mean to become a Buddha?

A Buddha refers to someone who is enlightened or awakened; someone who understands the true nature of reality. Someone who has fully realized this will be free from the cycle of suffering that is birth, death, and rebirth.

Marks of the Buddha
  • cranial protuberance (ushnisha)
  • hair between the eyebrows (urna)
  • long earlobes
  • wears monks’ robes (usually)

Buddhas vs Bodhisattvas

While the Buddha is someone who has already achieved enlightenment, a bodhisattva is someone who is still in the process of achieving it.

Tantric Deities

Tantric deities serve to personify the qualities of the enlightened ones. For example, statues of tantric deities might often show two figures in a sexual embrace. This represents the qualities of wisdom and compassionate action. Others might be shown with many arms or heads. This is a sign of multiple abilities.

By making yourself familiar with these three concepts in Himalayan art, you will be able to go through the rest of the exhibit with a better understanding of what you’re looking at.

Gateway to Himalayan Art will be available until May 28, 2018.

Stay tuned for more posts about the current exhibitions at the Rubin and other museums in the city!


gateway to himalayan art