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The Unseen in Tibetan Art

Members Keytalk

Thursday, March 14, 2013
8:00 PM–9:30 PM

Free to members, and available to members only; reservations for Higher Level members only
The texts and images on the back of Tibetan art objects reveal clues to their meaning, function, and historical context. For the first time ever, both sides of a select group ofscroll paintings (thangkas), sculptures, and initiation cardswill be explored in detail. Chosen for the beauty, exceptional content, and complexity of their backs, these works of art dating from the 13th to the 19th century illuminate the many uses of the other side in Tibetan culture.
Much of what is found on the reverse relates to the consecration ritual through which the work becomes a religious object. Handprints of eminent masters and drawings strengthen this religious aspect and are explained along with the key Buddhist texts found there as well. The writing also contains clues for identifying the representations on the front and historical details. Such texts range from veneration mantrasdedicated to the immediate teachers of the donor to sophisticated poems of praise mentioning historical personages in the memory of which thework of art was made.

About the Speaker

Christian Luczanits graduated with a doctorate at the Institute of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna, Austria, under the supervision of the late Maurizio Taddei (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli) specializing in Buddhist art of India and Tibet.
Besides numerous articles on the early Buddhist monuments, artifacts and inscriptions found in or related to this region are largely a result of his field work. His first book, Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, late 10th to early 13th centuries, was published by Serindia, Chicago in 2004. More recent research concentrated on Buddhist art immediately before and during Kushana rule and was substantially funded by the Lumbini International Research Institute. In this connection, Christian curated the exhibition Gandhara, the Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan. Legends, Monasteries and Paradise at the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in Bonn together with Michael Jansen and was responsible for its catalogue. Before joining the Rubin Museum in 2010, Christian was a Freeman Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley in 2004/05, Visiting Professor at Free University in Berlin 2006–08 and Numata Visiting Professor at Stanford University and UC Berkeley in the first half of 2010.