The Rubin Museum of Art 2023 Focus on Global Projects Furthering the Field of Himalayan Art & Programs Focusing on Life After




Image courtesy Rubin Museum

The Rubin Museum of Art is thrilled to announce its schedule of exhibitions and programs in 2023. The year begins with the launch of the Rubin’s largest institutional project to date, Project Himalayan Art, an initiative to provide global access to resources promoting a broader understanding of Himalayan art. The year’s exploration of the theme Life After begins in March with the cross-cultural exhibition Death Is Not the End, which examines ideas about death and the afterlife in the art of Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity. Live programming and the seventh issue of the Rubin Museum’s annual publication, Spiral magazine, available in print and online, will further expand on these themes. Throughout the year the Rubin will host its first ever series of professional development residencies for artists, museum professionals, and scholars who live and work in the Himalayan region. And in the fall of 2023 the Buddhist monastery Itumbaha in Kathmandu, in partnership with the Rubin Museum and Lumbini University, will unveil its permanent display galleries for objects in the monastery complex.

Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngagwang Lobbing Gyatso (1617-1682); Tibet; 17 century; Gilt copper alloy; C2006.38.2 (HAR 65647)

“2023 will be an exciting year for the Rubin and for Himalayan art worldwide,” says Rubin Museum Executive Director Jorrit Britschgi. “We’re launching Project Himalayan Art, our most ambitious project to date; we’re exploring the uncomfortable topic of death and afterlife in a new exhibition; and we’re investing in efforts that foster mutual learning and collaboration around the world, especially with creatives and colleagues from the Himalayan region. All are ways to reimagine what a Museum can be.”

Additional information on the Rubin Museum’s exhibitions, projects, and public programs will be announced in the coming months.

Buddha on the Cosmic Mountain; Kashmir; ca. 715 CE; bronze with silver and copper inlay; height 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm; The Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, CA; F.1972.48.2.S. Photograph courtesy The Norton Simon Foundation~Ritual Dance Mask of Guru Dorje Drolo; Bhutan or southern Tibet; ca. 19th century; Papier-mâché, polychrome, fabric, 14 ½ x 13 ½ x 10 1/8 in.; Bruce Lee Miller Collection. Photo by John Bigelow Taylor

Project Himalayan Art
Publication, digital platform, and traveling exhibition
Organized by Elena Pakhoutova and Karl Debreczeny with twelve academic advisors
Launching January 31, 2023

Project Himalayan Art is a three-part initiative that offers resources for learning about Himalayan art, with an emphasis on cross-cultural exchange. Its integrated components fill a gap in the learning space by encouraging the inclusion of Himalayan, Tibetan, and Inner Asian art and cultures into humanities and liberal arts curricula on Asia in higher education.

The publication Himalayan Art in 108 Objects is the first cross-disciplinary, accessible introduction of its kind, contextualizing Himalayan art within historical developments in religious, social, literary, and material culture. Seventy-two international scholars from different fields contributed to this publication, which will be available in spring 2023.  

The traveling exhibition Gateway to Himalayan Art is modeled after the introductory exhibition of the same name at the Rubin Museum. It will acquaint visitors with the fundamental visual language of Himalayan art and feature voices of people from Himalayan communities, including artists, practitioners, and teachers. The traveling exhibition is offered free to universities and its first stop will be Lehigh University Art Galleries, opening January 31, 2023, followed by the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College in September 2023.

The digital platform Project Himalayan Art, a hub for the study of Himalayan art, will launch January 31, 2023. It combines materials from the exhibition and publication with multimedia content, such as 3D models, 360-degree object views, interactive maps, geography-based narratives, teaching resources, a glossary, and more.

Wheel of Life; Tibet or Mongolia; 19th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin; C2006.66.131 (HAR 78)  
Unknown European artist; A Woman Divided into Two, Representing Life and Death; 1790–1820; oil painting; 16 5/16 × 14 in. (41.5 x 35.5 cm); Wellcome Collection, London; 45063i ~ Sarvavid Album Leaf #53: Liberation from Hell; Inner Mongolia; 18th–19th century; pigments on paper; Collection of the City of Antwerp – MAS; AE.1977.0026.41-54; Photo: Bart Huysmans & Michel Wuyts

Death Is Not the End
March 17, 2023 –January 15, 2024

Curated by Elena Pakhoutova, Senior Curator of Himalayan Art
Death Is Not the End explores ideas about death and afterlife through the art of Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity by bringing together objects from the Rubin Museum’s collection with loans from major institutions and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Morgan Library & Museum, Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp, Wellcome Collection in London, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, San Antonio Museum of Art, and more. With over fifty objects spanning the ninth to twenty-first century, including prints, oil paintings, illuminated manuscripts, bone ornaments, thangka paintings, sculptures, and ritual items, Death Is Not the End invites contemplation on the universal condition of impermanence and the human desire to continue to exist.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a program series hosted and curated by musician Amanda Palmer. It will include conversations, workshops, and performances that explore the transformation that can occur after moments of transition.

Image Credits: Hua Khar (active 1990s, Qinghai Province, China); Knowledge of Dietetics—Dietary Restrictions; Chentsa, Amdo Region, Northeastern Tibet (Jianzha, Qinghai Province, China); 1995–1996; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; Gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection; C2014.9.22

Spiral Magazine 2023: Life After Issue
Available March 2023

Spiral magazine is the Rubin Museum’s annual free publication at the intersection of art, science, and Himalayan cultures. Spiral asks big questions at the center of our shared human experience with interviews, essays, poetry, art, at-home practices, and more. The seventh issue features interviews with professionals who help people navigate big transitions, from birth to death and everything in between, along with articles about life after in relation to art objects, science fiction, family history, and more. Read advice on how to write an ethical will, and gain insights into your own process of handling transitions through an art therapy exercise.

Professional Development Residencies
In March 2023, the Rubin is launching a professional development residency program for artists, museum professionals, and scholars who live and work in the Himalayan region. Residencies will serve to advance the resident’s contemporary art, museology, or academic practice, cultivate long-lasting cross-cultural collaborations with partner institutions, and foster a network for learning. The Rubin will host three to five residents per year for two-to-four-week periods, providing travel, accommodation, stipends for materials and meals, and access to the Museum’s resources and collection of over 3,800 artworks. Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis. The first resident will be Swosti Rajbhandari from the Nepal Art Council, a leading nonprofit focused on promoting arts and artists of Nepal. Additional residents and details to be announced in 2023.

Itumbaha Galleries, Kathmandu, Nepal
In partnership with the Rubin Museum and Lumbini Buddhist University
Opening Fall 2023

The Rubin Museum and Itumbaha Conservation Society have worked with a master’s class in museology and Buddhist collections at Lumbini Buddhist University, Nepal, to document Itumbaha’s collection of over five hundred objects, as well as create three permanent display galleries for the objects in the monastery’s vacant spaces. Itumbaha is recognized as the oldest and most important of the eighteen Buddhist monasteries in Kathmandu and it retains its original layout. The large complex is made up of several monasteries, courtyards, shrines, lanes, and many buildings that date back to the eleventh century. Earlier this year the Rubin returned a fourteenth-century wood carving of a garland bearing apsara to Itumbaha, which initiated the partnership. In the fall, the galleries will be unveiled to the public, telling the rich history of this important site and raising awareness of the cultural significance of historic collections in religious institutions.

Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room inside The Rubin Museum of Art


Leadership support for Project Himalayan Art is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Lead support is provided by the Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation, Bob and Lois Baylis, Barbara Bowman, the E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Noah P. Dorsky, Fred Eychaner, Christopher J. Fussner, Matt and Ann Nimetz, and Shelley and Donald Rubin.

Major support is provided by the Edward & Elizabeth Gardner Foundation, Mimi Gardner Gates, the Monimos Foundation, Rossi & Rossi, Eric and Alexandra Schoenberg, Eileen Caulfield Schwab, and Sandy Song Yan.

Tibet; 18th century Pigments on cloth C2007.33.1 (HAR 65816) Tales of Buddha Shakyamuni’s past lives are some of the most well-known narratives in Himalayan culture. They are often presented across a series of paintings, with each painting illustrating several narratives from the whole collection of stories. The narrative scenes are usually arranged around a central image of the Buddha and visually separated by landscape elements. The traditional set of tales includes the stories of the Buddha’s previous lives as a bodhisattva, king, merchant, and animal

Special support is provided by:

Dr. Bibhakar Sunder Shakya, to honor the memory and legacy of Professor Dina Bangdel, art historian, curator, cultural activist, and educator from Nepal.

Samphe and Tenzin Lhalungpa, to honor the memory and works of L.P. Lhalungpa, Tibetan scholar, broadcaster, and educator.

Project Himalayan Art has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

Death Is Not the End is supported by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation, and The Prospect Hill Foundation.

Public funding is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Project Himalayan Art and Death is Not the End are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Damchen Garwai Nagpo; China; 18th century; Gilt brass; C2005.16.65 (HAR 65488)

The Rubin Museum of Art is located at 150 West 17th Street, NYC. While you’re there, take refuge in the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room; the entire third floor, now the Mandala Lab; Healing Practices: Stories from Himalayan Americans; and don’t miss K2 Friday Nights ~ Free admissions, cocktails, DJs, and more.

Can’t make it? Look inside The Rubin Museum of Art online collection.

A look-back at The Rubin Museum of Art exhibitions and programs.

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