The Rubin
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Strengthening the Collection

The Rubin Museum opened its doors in 2004 with an initial gift of more than one thousand works of art from founders Shelley and Donald Rubin. Since that time, additional gifts have increased their donation to include over 1,800 objects, and along with works added by other donors and museum purchases, the Rubin began its second decade with a collection of more than three thousand works of art. As we move further into our second decade, we’ve been reviewing the collection with an eye toward identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas where new acquisitions will help us build on the quality, scope, and depth of the collection. Our goal is to use the collection as a basis for meaningful exhibitions that resonate with our visitors, provide additional learning and research opportunities for scholars, and represent the rich traditions of Himalayan art.


The art in the Rubin spans more than 1,500 years and ranges from a broad collection of traditional Himalayan art to complementary collections that include contemporary art as well as photography. Strengths of the collection include traditional scroll paintings and sculptures from the region.


The Rubin is a collecting institution, and actively seeks works of art—via donation or occasional purchase—that will enhance and strengthen the collection.

The curatorial staff has developed an ongoing process to identify collection needs. Will an object further the mission of the museum, the goals of our exhibition program, and provide value to the field of Himalayan art? All works of art considered for acquisition must meet standards of quality and provenance as outlined in our collections policy. Ancient and archaeological art (created before the 5th century AD) fall under a stricter provenance policy, as defined in the UNESCO Charter of 1970. Works recommended by the curatorial staff are then reviewed by the Board.


The collection as a whole is periodically reassessed, with the following question in mind: Does an object help balance the collection, or does it create redundancies? This review may result in identifying objects that are not critical to the museum or its mission. These are recommended for removal from the collection, in a process known as deaccessioning.

Deaccessioning allows us to refine our collection and remove artworks that may be unnecessarily duplicative, or due to high storage costs, have become difficult for us to keep and will be rarely seen due to condition or quality. Other objects may not be appropriate to the museum’s mission or area of collecting. The removal of such objects is always recommended by the Curatorial Director and approved by the Board of Trustees. This is just one part of the process by which we improve our ability to assemble, care for, and exhibit exemplary works of art.

You can view the objects selected for deaccession below. Deaccessioning is a common museum practice for which high standards and rigorous scrutiny have been established by professional associations. While there are many ways that deaccessioned objects are disposed of (including gifts to other institutions), most frequently deaccessioned objects are sold in order to raise funds for other needed objects. Proceeds from any sale are used only to fund other acquisitions.

Our acquisition and deaccession policies ensure that the Rubin Museum of Art will remain a professionally responsible institution.

See All Deaccessioned Objects


The collection exists primarily to support our exhibition and research programs. Selections from our permanent collection of traditional material are always on view in the museum. In addition, we feature exhibitions of briefer duration that are not limited to our collection but allow us to explore ideas that often work in dialogue with our permanent collection. The Rubin is also generous in lending works of art from its collection to other institutions worldwide.


The Rubin Museum seeks out long-term loans as an important way to present a fuller, richer narrative. These select works of art supplement the permanent collection. Loans broaden our outlook and our ability to tell compelling stories and reach new audiences. For example, our exhibitions often feature a selection from the more than one hundred works of art from the renowned Nyingjei Lam collection, on long-term loan to the Museum through 2020. Long-term loans enlarge the pool of objects that we draw on for exhibition, research, and loans to other exhibitions across the country and around the world.