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Sacred Spaces

with The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room

October 17, 2016–June 5, 2017

What makes a space sacred? What spaces are sacred to you? This exhibition reflects on these questions by looking at devotional activities in awe-inspiring places. This year the exhibition presents three distinct but related environments shaped by acts of veneration.The centerpiece of Sacred Spaces is the Museum’s popular Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. Designed to evoke the aesthetics and atmosphere of a traditional shrine in an affluent household setting, this installation offers visitors the opportunity to experience Tibetan religious art in its cultural context. It includes more than one hundred objects, including scroll paintings (thangkas) and sculptures of buddhas, bodhisattvas, tantric deities, and religious teachers arranged on traditional Tibetan furniture and accompanied by ornamental textiles and ritual objects. Simulated flickering butter lamps, incense, and sounds of chanting engage the senses and complete the immersive experience.

Accompanying the shrine room are two contemporary works of art that depict sacred spaces in the Himalayas and South Asia. A large panoramic photograph taken in Mustang, Nepal, by Jaroslav Poncar offers an atmospheric context for the shrine room. This impressive vista evokes the high mountainous landscape in which Tibetan Buddhism developed and still flourishes. A video installation created by Deidi von Schaewen documents a Jain communal ritual in which a massive stone sculpture is anointed every twelve years in Shravanabelgola, Karnataka, India. The twelve-minute, two-channel video installation of this sacred rite presents a mesmerizing display of devotional acts such as ablutions, blessings, and prayers.

To learn more about ways to support this exhibition, contact Nicky Combs, Head of Individual Giving and Major Gifts, at 212.620.5000 x247 or by emailing

Collected Spaces

Where is your sacred space? Reflect on the spaces that are meaningful to you in the exhibition Sacred Spaces and then contribute your own. Share on paper in the gallery or add to the collection online with the hashtag #SacredSpaces. The sea of spaces from our visitors are being documented on Instagram @CollectedSpaces.

Go Inside the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room

As the featured installation of Sacred Spaces, the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room evokes the aesthetics and atmosphere of a traditional Tibetan sacred space and offers visitors the opportunity to experience Tibetan religious art in its cultural context. There are many kinds of Tibetan Buddhist shrines, from humble home altars to lavish temples, but the Rubin Museum's Shrine Room installation is modeled on an affluent household shrine. It includes more than one hundred objects, largely from the Museum's collection, including sculptures, paintings, offering bowls, musical instruments, and ritual objects. Take a virtual tour of the Shrine Room to learn more about the objects, which reflect particular teachings, practices, and lineage transmissions, and are used in daily worship and rituals. Curated by Elena Pakhoutova