The Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art on West 17th Street in Chelsea is one of New York’s hidden treasures. Walking in there any day of the week (except for Tuesday, when it’s closed) guarantees a big dose of serenity mixed with aesthetic ecstasy. The shows are exquisitely mounted, lit, and notated. Currently on display is a fantastic show of modernist Indian painting. On the first floor, the show called “Gateway to Himalayan Art” includes an extraordinary Tibetan Shrine Room.
When I visited yesterday, I found myself most mesmerized by the “Masterworks” show, specifically a room of fantastic, intricate, Bosch-like murals, which the Rubin’s website describes thusly: “Life-size facsimiles of an entire sequence of murals from the Lukhang, the Dalai Lamas’ Secret Temple near the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, provide an exceptional opportunity for viewing Himalayan art at its most lavish. The original eighteenth-century wall paintings–inaccessible to the public until the late twentieth century–uniquely depict the most esoteric of meditation and yoga practices in vivid color and detail. Created with new photographic methods by Thomas Laird and Clint Clemens, this display of large-format, high resolution pigment prints allows for even better access to the paintings than is possible in the temple itself. Their presentation at the Rubin marks the first showing in the world of prints created using this technology and also provides the first-ever opportunity outside Tibet to view full-size Tibetan murals in their relationship to portable art from the region.” Typical for Tibetan art, they are full of strong images of death, skulls, and wrathful deities. You can study these panoramas for an hour at a time. I loved spying the nonchalant disembowelling of a human by animals (above) or the coquettish glance of love shared by a weaver and a shepherd (below).