The Rubin Museum of Art has announced the Himalayan Art Project, an ambitious three-part initiative to create resources for the inclusion of Himalayan, Tibetan, and Inner Asian art for teaching about Asia in higher education and other learning environments.
The three integrated parts will include a publication of the first-ever multi-author, interdisciplinary introduction to Himalayan art and cultures; a traveling exhibition; and a free digital platform with online resources. Together, they will provide multiple entry points for students, educators, and the public to learn about the art of the cultural regions centered around the Tibetan Plateau and gain a holistic understanding of Asia. All three components will launch in early 2023, with the touring exhibit’s first stop planned for Lehigh University Art Galleries, which will open on January 31, 2023.
Despite its historical significance and impact on shaping cultural and artistic achievements in Asia, Tibetan, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Mongolian and surrounding art has, until now, been rarely taught outside of local contexts. Himalayan art is often presented in isolation as a regional form, unrelated to other parts of Asia, and is excluded from long-established introductory surveys of the visual arts and cultures of Asia, such as those which exist for China, Korea, India and Japan. Consequently, there are very few educational resources on Himalayan art.
“The absence of Himalayan art and cultures from most educational curricula in the United States is a missed opportunity to engage with the meaningful contributions of these artistic traditions to global culture within the larger context of Asia erasure,” says Elena Pakhoutova, senior curator at the Rubin Museum.
As a solution to this under-representation, Project Himalayan Art will develop, aggregate and disseminate scholarly and educational materials on Himalayan art and cultures for incorporation into humanities and liberal arts curricula in colleges and settings. underprivileged scholars. The project is led by Elena Pakhoutova and Karl Debreczeny, senior curators at the Rubin Museum, in collaboration with academic advisory groups made up of professors from various disciplines. The Himalayan Art Project was conceived in 2019 and over the past three years has been informed by survey responses from over 250 educators, professors, Asia-focused institutions and foundations.
The Henry Luce Foundation awarded the Rubin Museum a $500,000 grant over 4 years to support the traveling exhibit and digital platform. With other donors, including planning grants from the National Endowment of Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rubin Museum has reached nearly half of its total funding goal for the Himalayan Art Project to date.
The object-focused publication, titled Himalayan Art in 108 Objects, is the first interdisciplinary introduction to Himalayan art that contextualizes art within historical developments in religious, literary and material culture. The publication is organized chronologically from the Neolithic to the present day and highlights paintings, sculptures, drawings, pilgrimage maps, architectural structures and ritual and everyday objects. The essays, authored by over seventy international scholars from different fields, explore intricate connections through the movement of objects, people, styles, traditions and ideas outward and inward from the Tibet, a region that plays a leading role in intercultural exchanges in Asia. Topics include historical traditions, ritual and social practices, as well as art forms and technologies from different connected regions.
The traveling exhibition, titled Gateway to Himalayan Art, is conceptually inspired by the introductory exhibition at the Rubin Museum. It will familiarize visitors with the fundamental visual language and meanings of Himalayan art, the materials and techniques used, and the purposes for creating the objects. The traveling exhibition further incorporates first-person Himalayan, Tibetan and Inner Asian voices, commissions from contemporary artists working in traditional forms, and new materials of engagement that expand the exhibition into other avenues. of study. Gateway to Himalayan Art will feature forty to eighty objects from the Rubin Museum’s collection, depending on the size of the venue. Visitors can deepen their experience using QR codes that lead to essays of the Himalayan Art in 108 Objects publication and multimedia on the digital platform.
Traveling exhibition locations include:
- Lehigh University Art Galleries, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, January 31 – May 26, 2023
- McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Boston, MA, Fall 2023
- Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, Spring 2024
- The Frank Museum of Art, Otterbein University, Westerville, OH, Fall 2024
- Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, Spring 2025
The digital platform will place the objects of the publication and exhibition in a broader context, serving as a resource for educators and scholars from various disciplines as well as the general public. Digital content will include topical overviews, essays, videos, animations, interactive maps, audio, educational guides and other contextual resources.
Each of these three components can be used in tandem or as a stand-alone resource, providing students and the general public with various avenues of discovery and purposeful engagement with the material.
“Project Himalayan Art is the Rubin Museum’s most ambitious contribution and investment in Himalayan art and cultures to date. It will be a major resource for the next generation of students, educators, d artists and the interested public for decades to come.” says Jorrit Britschgi, executive director of the Rubin Museum. “Project Himalayan Art is also a defining part of our growing focus on global initiatives – such as the inaugural Nepal Pavilion in Venice, our partnership with Itum Bahal in Kathmandu, Nepal, and the first presentation of the new traveling Mandala Lab in Bilbao. , Spain – which deepen understanding and appreciation of Himalayan art, ideas and cultures around the world with well-researched, accessible and transformative content accessible to the public beyond the museum.”
“In short, the goal of the Himalayan Art project is to emphasize connectivity and cultural exchange and demonstrate that these connected traditions extend far beyond the Himalayan mountain range – and even the Tibetan plateau. – playing an important role in Asia,” says Karl Debreczeny, senior curator at the Rubin Museum.