The Rubin Museum of Art to Close its Doors in Fall 2024 to Become a Museum Without Walls




The Rubin Museum of Art announced today that as they embark on their 20 anniversary year, they will be taking a new direction, closing the West 17th Street building this fall to become a museum without walls. This ambitious global program is designed to bring awareness and understanding of Himalayann art to more people by partnering with artists and communities around the world.

We look forward to following.

The memo reads:

This has been a difficult decision, especially given the departure of some of the staff that have made this place so exceptional. Ultimately, this decision will allow us to serve more people, digitally and in person.

We are proud of the groundbreaking exhibitions, programs, and gatherings we have held on 17th Street. Many of you have shared with us how our unique building has been a place for nourishing the mind and the heart, and even for experiences that changed your lives. Thank you for the trust you have placed in us.

The art in our galleries teaches us that change is constant and inevitable. We take inspiration from this, as we boldly let go of an old model and redefine what it means to be a museum in the 21st century. We will build on partnerships and collaborations with people from the Himalayan region, diaspora, and beyond, and make our offerings available globally, supporting research, artistic expression and creativity. Existing Rubin programs such as the pioneering Project Himalayan Art, which provides physical and digital scholarly resources for the study of Himalayan art with an exhibition traveling nationally, and our interactive Mandala Lab, soon opening in Milan, are only the beginning. While we’re becoming a global museum, we remain rooted in New York City. The Rubin’s Social, Emotional, and Ethical Learning® curriculum, incorporated in partnership with Emory University, will serve schools and teachers in New York City and beyond through digital and in-person traveling Mandala Lab experiences, and will be expanded in the coming years.

What will NOT change is our mission: to broadly share Himalayan art, its cultural context, and the insights it provides for humanity. We will continue to care for, study, and share our collection as the foundation of our organization, through an expansive loan program, and we will keep on curating, creating, and traveling Rubin projects. We also hope to find a new permanent home for our Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room in New York City in the coming months.

We are deeply grateful to everyone who has walked through our doors since 2004 and helped the Rubin transform from a private collection into a singular public institution.

While this change means letting go of our physical space in pursuit of a new model, our mission to advance the appreciation and understanding of Himalayan art globally remains as strong as ever. Please come and visit the upcoming Reimagine: Himalayan Art Now exhibition before October 6 and we invite you to continue to be a part of our journey in the decades to come.

Image courtesy Rubin Museum

Founded in 2004 by Donald and Shelley Rubin, the Rubin Museum of Art has engaged audiences in New York City in the exploration of Himalayan art, and the cultures and ideas inherent in it, across time and place. With a collection largely comprised of Buddhist works from the Tibetan Plateau, the museum fosters understanding and appreciation of the art from this region by sharing and illuminating the ability of Himalayan art to reveal insights into the human condition.

The Rubin has embraced constant reinvention throughout the last two decades, evolving from a private collection to a beloved public organization with cutting-edge programming. In that same spirit of renewal and to serve its mission well into the future, the Rubin will begin the next chapter of its history as a museum without walls and will close its New York City building on October 6, 2024.

Led by the board of trustees, the Rubin examined how to best use its collection, knowledge, creativity, relationships, and financial resources for the long term. The museum’s leadership reached the difficult decision to sell its building on 17th Street after an in-depth analysis of the cultural sector and its position in it, the needs of international audiences, and the opportunity to execute its mission with a global outlook and impact.

With this transformation, the Rubin will take a leadership role in redefining ​​what it means to be a museum in the 21st century. In this new model, the Rubin will pursue an ambitious program that will expand its efforts to promote cultural understanding, inspire intellectual discovery, and deepen awareness of self and others, with the central goal of creating a more compassionate, resilient world. See ‘The Rubin’s Global Future’ below for details on future objectives and programming. 

Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room inside The Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin will continue to care for, study, and share its collection as the foundation of the organization, through an expansive loan program as well as traveling exhibitions conceived by the Rubin, and in partnership with other cultural organizations.

The museum building on 17th Street will remain open to the public until October 6. In addition to highlights from the permanent collection, the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, and the New York installation of the Mandala Lab, visitors can experience the anniversary exhibition, Reimagine: Himalayan Art Now (March 15 – October 6, 2024), installed across the entire Museum. The group show features new and recent artworks from 32 contemporary artists from Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan, as well as select international artists inspired by Himalayan art, presented in dialogue with objects from the Museum’s collection.

Pratisara, One of the Five Protector Goddesses. Origin: Central Tibet, possibly Densatil Monastery. Credit: Rubin Museum of Art

In recent years, the Rubin has pursued a series of projects that piloted new ways of fulfilling its role as a global museum. These include:

  • Venice Biennale 2022: Provided lead global support for the first national pavilion of Nepal, co-commissioned by the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts and the Siddhartha Arts Foundation.
  • Mandala Lab: Designed to promote emotional learning through Buddhist principles and interactive experiences, the Mandala Lab traveled to Bilbao in 2022 as a highlight of the Wellbeing Summit for Social Change, and London in 2023 as a Special Project of the London Design Festival, with additional venues scheduled through 2025.
  • Project Himalayan Art: The most comprehensive interdisciplinary resource for the study of Himalayan, Tibetan, and Inner Asian art and cultures, Project Himalayan Art comprises a digital platform, scholarly publication, and an ongoing traveling exhibition of objects from the Rubin’s collection for colleges and universities, most recently presented at Lehigh University Art Galleries and the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College and opening at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida on February 13.
  • Itumbaha Museum: The Rubin supported a local Nepalese community’s longstanding vision for the creation of the Itumbaha Museum in Kathmandu, following the return of an object from the Rubin’s collection to the Itumbaha monastery.
  • Digital Content: The museum has expanded its digital investments and initiatives, such as its Webby Honoree podcast AWAKEN, with listenership in over 150 countries.
Tara Protecting from the Eight Fears. Origin: Khao Province, Southeastern Tibet. Date: late 19th ~ early 20th century. Credit: Rubin Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Michael Henss, Zurich

Shelley Frost Rubin, Co-Founder, said: “Building and sharing this collection of Himalayan art was one of my family’s great joys. Creating a museum was a life-changing moment. While it has been a privilege to welcome visitors to the Rubin in New York over the last 20 years, our anniversary inspired reflection on how we can achieve the greatest possible impact well into the future. The result is the firm belief that a more expansive model will allow us to best serve our mission – not changing ‘why’ we share Himalayan art with the world, but ‘how’ we do it. Bold change has always been in the Rubin’s DNA, and we are excited to embrace what our future as a global museum has to offer.”

Noah Dorsky, Board President, said: “The definition of what a museum is has evolved dramatically in recent years – questions of its role in culture and society at large, its recognition of the changing needs of the communities it serves, its value to cultural consumers, to name a few. Historically, the Rubin’s culture embraces continual change and evolution, and in our new incarnation, we are redefining what a museum can be. Realigning our resources will empower us to reach much broader and diverse audiences, prioritize accessibility, galvanize creativity, advance scholarship, and champion new modes of engagement in a fast-changing world.”

Jorrit Britschgi, Executive Director, said: “By sharing Himalayan art and its insights, the Rubin aims to empower people to examine big questions of what it means to be human today, with the hope of creating a more compassionate, resilient world. In times of rapid change, the Rubin’s new model seeks to share this art and cultural heritage, much of which represents practices that are said to increase tolerance for instability and change. For our future programming – both in-person and digital – we seek to partner with communities worldwide to explore how Himalayan art can serve their needs to learn, contemplate, and connect.”

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


Going forward, the Rubin will prioritize several key objectives in service of its mission, including:

  • Strengthening the representation of Himalayan art in museums and relevant cultural organizations, including long-term loans from the Rubin collection;
  • Nurturing and broadening the creative exploration and interpretation of traditional Himalayan art, including supporting and elevating contemporary artists inspired by the art and cultural heritage of this region;
  • Expanding research into Himalayan art, and the Rubin’s collection in particular, with an emphasis on interpretation and accessibility;
  • Deepening provenance research and fostering dialogue with source countries to further awareness on the topic;
  • Investing in multimedia educational resources, providing broader access to the collection.
Lords of the Charnel Ground; Smashana Adipati; Tibet; 18th century; painted terracotta; 6 1/2 x 5 1/8 x 1 1/2 in. (16.5 x 13 x 3.8 cm); Rubin Museum of Art; C2002.36.1 (HAR 65149); photography by David De Armas for the Rubin Museum of Art, 2012


The preservation, study, interpretation and sharing of the collection will continue to be a primary function of the Rubin going forward. To that end, today the Rubin announces the launch of a robust long-term loan program with museums and cultural organizations that are interested in expanding their permanent presentation of Himalayan art and sharing it with their respective communities.

An extensive and proactive loan program will enable the Rubin’s permanent collection to be experienced by more people around the world. The Rubin will continue to share its scholarly, curatorial, and interpretive expertise and resources when loaning objects, accelerate its provenance research, and make its objects and their histories more accessible digitally.

Bodhisattva Maitreya,, Kham Province, Eastern Tibet; 19th century; Pigments ann cloth; C2002.35.2 (HAR 65201)


The Rubin will continue to originate its own exhibitions, installations, signature programs, and content series, as well as contribute to special exhibitions and experiences that build awareness of Himalayan art and cultures in collaboration with other institutions, serving the public locally, nationally and internationally.

Upcoming projects include:

  • The traveling version of its interactive Mandala Lab will be installed in Milan, Italy in Spring 2024 and another European city in 2025.
  • The Gateway to Himalayan Art exhibition – a cornerstone of Project Himalayan Art – will travel to universities in Florida, Ohio, Utah, Oregon and California through 2026.
  • The Rubin exhibition Reimagine: Himalayan Art Now  will travel to Wrightwood 659 in Chicago in the fall of 2024.
  • Highly successful digital programs, such as Mindfulness Meditation and AWAKEN podcasts, will continue to be produced, as well as new multi-media experiences about contemporary art and artists.
  • The Rubin’s Social, Emotional, and Ethical Learning® curriculum, incorporated in partnership with Emory University, will serve schools and teachers in New York City and beyond through digital and in-person traveling Mandala Lab experiences, and will be expanded in the coming years.
Yellow Jambhala Tibet; 17th Century Clay with Pigments, Rubin Museum of Art C2006.64.1 (HAR 65728).


As a global museum, the Rubin will serve as a platform and hub for thinkers, practitioners, and artists from the Himalayan region, diaspora, and beyond, shaping understanding of Himalayan art, its insights, and cultural contexts today.

The Rubin will offer expanded resources for the research, interpretation, and presentation of Himalayan art through significant funding opportunities for external organizations, scholars, and artists:

  • Applications for the new Rubin Grant Program open in March. The Grant Program supports individual and institutional projects focusing on researching, interpreting, sharing, and responding to Himalayan art.
  • In November 2023, the Rubin announced the creation of the Rubin Museum Himalayan Art Prize, with the inaugural prize to be awarded in fall 2024. As a key funding opportunity, the prize will support living artists and recognizes the work of innovative individuals and collectives that have majorly contributed to creative and critically relevant dialogues between Himalayan art and contemporary life.
Rubin Museum
Rubin Museum Annual Block Party. All images courtesy of Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin continues to rely and build on the generous support of individual and institutional donors who share its vision of a global museum that strives to create broader awareness around Himalayan art by serving people locally, nationally, and internationally.

Exhibitions and programs at The Rubin Museum of Art to October 6, 2024.

The Rubin Museum of Art is located at 150 West 17th Street, NYC. The Museum is closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Open on Thursday from 11am to 5pm; Friday from 11am to 10pm; and on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

Take a look at events and exhibits at The Rubin Museum of Art, past and present

Read about the return of the 16th Century Mask of Bhairava to Nepal by The Rubin Museum of Art.