Kashmir, a region extending between present-day Pakistan, India, and China, was a vibrant center of cultural exchange where Buddhism flourished and artists created exceptional sculptures, paintings, and manuscripts. Beginning in the 5th–6th centuries Kashmir and its art boasted international prestige and had significant cultural impact in the region, especially in the Western Himalayas and West Tibet. Although these neighboring regions had a radically different environment and culture to Kashmir, Buddhism and art from Kashmir had profound influence there beginning in the 10th century.
Western Himalayan pilgrims to Kashmir “collected” art there and installed it in their new monasteries at home; they invited Kashmiri teachers and artists and worked together to create a new Buddhist culture there. Over time, the Buddhist art of Kashmir became deeply imbedded in the cultural identity of Western Himalayan Buddhists who developed distinct artistic expressions of their own.
Collecting Paradise traces the continuity of the art of Kashmir in the Western Himalayas for over a millennium. The exhibition begins with the exquisite carved ivory and metal sculptures from Kashmir that were brought to the Western Himalayas in the 7th–12th centuries and highlights the notion of Buddhist art in motion. The exhibition continues with the presentation of sculptures and paintings created by Kashmiri and local artists in the Western Himalayas in the 11th–14th centuries, and concludes with examples from the 15th–17th centuries when Kashmiri aesthetics were revitalized in an economic and religious revival in West Tibet.
Collecting Paradise celebrates Western Himalayan Buddhists as agents of their own cultural production and the important role they played in collecting and preserving the art of Kashmir that they greatly appreciated and that would come to be valued highly by western collectors in centuries to come.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, Collecting Paradise: Buddhist Art of Kashmir and Its Legacies.
The exhibition was organized by the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, and the Rubin Museum of Art, New York. Support for the exhibition was provided in part by the Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation and by contributors to the 2015 Exhibitions Fund.
The exhibition was conceived and curated by Rob Linrothe, for the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University.
Image credit: Crowned Buddha Shakyamuni (detail); Kashmir or northern Pakistan; 8th century; Brass with inlays of copper, silver, and zinc; Asia Society, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art, 1979.044
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