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"Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure"
2003-04-06 until 2003-08-17
Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, IL, USA

Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure will provide viewers with visual evidence of the spiritual aspirations of those who, over millennia, have defied the physical hardships of an arduous mountain terrain to express their soaring creative spirit. This is the first exhibition on a grand scale of art representing the entire region of the Himalaya Mountains-the rooftop of the world-bringing together 187 works of Buddhist and Hindu art created between the 5th and 19th centuries.

The sculptures, paintings, and other works comprising the show have been drawn from private and public collections across North America, Europe, and Asia, and more than one-half of these exquisite objects have never before been publicly exhibited. The exhibition also provides a strong sense of place, with large-scale photomurals-regional images by contemporary photographers -and maps dividing the galleries into distinct geographic areas. Visitors will make a sumptuous artistic trek across this awesome landscape, beginning with objects from Nepal; followed by Jammu and Kashmir, the western Himalayas and West Tibet; and finally, central and eastern Tibet, and Bhutan, which will comprise the exhibitions largest section.

A wide range of Buddhist and Hindu art is covered: temple sculptures of stone and wood; masterfully cast bronzes that have been embellished with inlaid gemstones, gilding, and paint; vividly colored paintings (from reverential portraits to awe-inspiring deities) on cloth, palm leaf, paper, and wood; works in terracotta; and intriguing ritual objects in various media. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue reflect a growing interest today in the Himalayas- from Tibetan Buddhism, to trekking in Nepal, to yoga ashrams in the Indian foothills. It is this geography that is currently exerting a powerful pull on Western seekers of both adventure and spirituality, as it has for millennia on millions of Hindus and Buddhists (though with greater devotion than adventurism). Today, the Himalayas are rapidly undergoing radical change, both environmental and religious, due to geographic and political causes; in light of this, the exhibition takes on even greater urgency and significance.

Catalogue: An accompanying exhibition catalogue (full color, approx. 300 pages) will provide cultural context for the featured works of art, as well as attempting, for the first time, to define an aesthetic for Himalayan areas in general. At the same time, the distinctiveness of three broad cultures-those of Kashmir and the Western Himalayas, Nepal, and Tibet-will be delineated. Apart from detailed entries for each object and broader essays on the principles of aesthetics by curator Pratapaditya Pal, an extensive appendix will include essays about inscriptions by Amy Heller, Oskar v. Hinüber, and Gautama V. Vajracharya.

Organizer: Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure is organized by the Department of Asian Art at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Sponsor: Major sponsorship support for Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure  has been received from Exelon, proud parent of ComEd. This exhibition is made possible by the E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Christensen Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and The W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.

IMAGE:
Central Tibet
Bhaishajyaguru Mandala,
14th century.
Kate S. Buckingham Endowment


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