New York City is home to a vast range of museums, many of them legendary, from the Met to the MoMa to the Museum of Natural History. While big-name museums are exciting to visit, there are also many niche institutions throughout the city. The Rubin, a cultural hub for Asian art, is one that I find fascinating and wish more people knew about.
Located in Chelsea, the Rubin, “inspires visitors to make powerful connections between contemporary life and the art, cultures, and ideas of the Himalayas and neighboring regions.” Since opening in 2004, the Rubin has had 1.4 million visitors through its interactive and educational exhibits that connect contemporary world to Himalayan art, ideas and history.
Himalayan art is not something everyone has an inherent familiarity with, which is why a visit to the Rubin can be particularly eye-opening and intriguing. The exhibit “Gateway to Himalayan Art,” a year-long exhibit lasting this June to next, is a wonderful way to introduce new viewers to the Rubin’s collections. Even those like myself with an interest in Asian Art can glean new and interesting insights from “Gateway.”
“Gateway to Himalayan Art” introduces visitors to the main concepts, forms, and themes within the Rubin’s collections: a gateway in every sense of the word. It opens with a video presentation and virtual map that highlights regions of interest, including past and present parts of Mongolia, India, Nepal, China, and Bhutan. Significant objects from the collection are arranged within the exhibit by theme: 1) figures and symbols, 2) materials and techniques, and 3) purpose and function. This careful, organized curation helps visitors understand what a piece of art means, what it is made for, and what it does or did.
The most common depiction is the Buddha, or “enlightened one,” founder of Buddhism and religious figure in 5th or 6th century BCE. A variety of Himalayan gods and goddesses can also be observed on scrolls, murals, sculptures, and tools.
The Rubin Museum is a fantastic museum for any visitor, its collections full of items that provide a window into another part of the globe. “Gateway to Himalayan Art” is an educational portal into this magnificent world, well-suited for both first-time visitors and specialists. Next time you’re in Chelsea, why not treat yourself?