Since the contemporary art world is pretty much on summer vacation until mid-September, I've been trying to find different venues to explore. On Friday night I visited the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea (in the building that once housed Barney's downtown space) and took advantage of the free admission (from 7:00-10:00 on Fridays). Housed in an elegant space featuring a dramatic, central, spiral staircase, The Rubin Museum focuses on the art from the Himalayas and the surrounding regions.
Currently on view is Mandala - The Perfect CIrcle which is an in-depth look at a traditional Himalayan Tantric Buddhist symbol for meditation. According to the show's introductory notes, Mandalas are intricate and artistic visual aids that serve as guides for complex meditation practices and assist in advancing users toward enlightenment. Mandalas typically feature images of deities and are made of cloth, paper, metal, wood or clay. On view are various different types of mandalas that range from paintings, wall hangings, portable mandalas, and my favorite - the elaborate and detailed three-dimensional works. Some of the mandalas on display date as far back as the 7th-9th centuries. (Through January 11, 2010.)
A Collector's Passion features over 50 South Asian and Himalayan works from the collection of Dr. David Nalin, who in the 60's was sent by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to develop a treatment for cholera. Whist there he began collecting art from the area and its surrounding regions including India, Tibet, and Nepal. Some of the pieces in his collection date back as far as the 3rd century! (Through November 9th.)
Nagas: Hill People of India features photos by New Delhi-based photographer Pablo Bartholomew of the Nagas people from the HImalayan hills of northeast India and Myanmar. (Through September 21st.) What Is It? Himalayan Art is a sort of Himalayan Art: 101 exhibition that proposes to answer the question "What is Himalayan art?" The exhibition will periodically change to further delve into its topic and provide more answers to the question posed. (Through February 4, 2013.) From the Land of the Gods - Art of the Kathmandu Valley presents artwork from Nepal, the region located between India and Tibet that serves as "the crossroads of trans-Himalayan trade, the shared sacred site of various Himalayan religions, and the epicenter of Himalayan arts production and influence." (Through March 14, 2010.)Though you may not reach a state of enlightenment during your trip to the Rubin Museum of Art, you will be enlightened by the wealth of information you'll gain about cultures that are not familiar to many of us. Since I'm very ignorant of the art and culture of the Himalayas, it was too much to absorb in one walk-through and will likely require many return visits. To learn more about the Rubin Museum of Art, see rmanyc.org.