City Pulse

By Mrinalini Kamath

On 17th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, where a branch of Barney’s department store once stood is a gateway to the Far East, The Rubin Museum of Art. If you’re looking for an indoor escape from modern day Manhattan to a completely different time and place, try setting foot in this wonderful museum.

The current exhibits at The Rubin include:

Human Currents: The World’s Largest Pilgrimage as Interpreted by Hannes Schmid
This colorful photography exhibit features images captured by Hannes Schmid at the 2001 Maha Kumbha Mela Festival in India, which takes place only once every 144 years. Considered one of the largest pilgrimages in the world (it could even be seen from space!) it is a gathering of Hindus from all across India on the banks of Hinduism’s most sacred river, the Ganges.

Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam
This exhibit explores journeys, pilgrimages and artifacts from these three religions, highlighting both similarities and differences in the three faiths. The exhibit includes a Chinese Buddhist pilgrimage map, a Tibetan Buddhist hand prayer wheel, a twelfth-century Christian reliquary casket and Muslim clay prayer tablets amongst many other objects of interest.

Quentin Roosevelt’s China: Ancestral Realms of the Naxi
Showcasing over 100 pieces of art collected by Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson Quentin and the botanist-explorer Joseph Rock, this exhibit highlights the Naxi, one of the many ethnic minorities in China. The religion of the Naxi, known as Dongba, is a blend of Bon, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Mongolian shamanism . With manuscripts, funeral scrolls, altar sticks, thangka paintings, and ritual objects featuring the only living pictographic language remaining, it’s an opportunity to see how this minority flourished in pre-Communist China.

Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection
Featuring some of the Rubin’s gems from their permanent collection, this exhibit is your chance to see a wide variety of Buddhist and Hindu art in different media, including an entire sequence of murals from the Dalai Lamas’ Secret Temple known as Lukhang, in Lhasa, Tibet. Many of these paintings, featuring meditation and yoga practices, are circa the 18th Century and not visible to the public until lately.

Gateway to Himalayan Art and The Tibetan Shrine Room
This showcase features mostly Hindu art from India and Nepal from the 12th to the 19th centuries and includes manuscripts, textiles and paintings. It’s your chance o step back into the past and experience the Himalayas first hand.

The Rubin is closed on Tuesdays and open Wednesdays – Sundays., with free admission on Friday evenings from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. In addition to their brilliant exhibits, they also have a cafe with a seasonal fusion menu, including noodle bowls, naaninis, afternoon tea and coffee with sweets plates (I once sampled a spicy paneer pizza there). If you’re interested in shopping for Eastern handicrafts and art, their gift shop has a wide selection. They also often have other programs, such as writing workshops, storytelling, theatre performances and film screenings.

So the next time you’re feeling like you need a brief break from the city and can’t quite bankroll a trip to Asia, try a subway ride to the Gateway of the Himalayas…in Chelsea.

The Rubin Museum of Art
150 W. 17 St.,
NYC 10011
212.620.5000
http://www.rmanyc.org

Originally published August 2011
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