Ten must-see works at the Rubin Museum of Art

Good for: Spiritualists

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  • Photograph: Thomas Laird and Clint Clemens

    Revelation of the Kalachakra Mandala to the First King

  • Photograph: Bruce White

    Malachakra Vajrapani

  • Photograph: Bruce White

    Damchen Garwai Nagpo

  • Photograph: David De Armas

    The Alice S Kandell Collection at the Rubin Museum

  • Photograph: Bruce White

    Diverse Forms of Makahala, Rubin Museum, Museums, Tibet, Buddhism

Photograph: Thomas Laird and Clint Clemens

Revelation of the Kalachakra Mandala to the First King


Lukhang mural images
Photojournalist Thomas Laird and photographer Clint Clemens snapped pics of murals in the Dalai Lama's private temple at his winter residence, the Potala Palace, in 2009; their digital images capture the cracks and water damage the works have suffered since being painted around 1700. The intricate work contains a narrative from one of Tibetan Buddhism's treasure texts. "The [text was] only recently identified, and it actually hasn't been studied in detail," museum curator Christian Luczanits says. "Our hope with this display is that scholars will come here to look at the murals and improve our knowledge."
Where to find it:
"Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection," ongoing

Mahachakra Vajrapani
This rare Chinese silk-and-gold textile can be displayed only for six months of the year so the 600-year-old threads aren't damaged. The museum aggressively pursued the piece—which survived China's Cultural Revolution—because of its age, quality and condition. Unfortunately, the person selling this took it upon themselves to mend the mangled embroidery.
Where to find it:
"Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection," through mid-September

Damchen Garwai
This lesser demigod from 18th-century China and Tibet is a local protector, riding his goat over a sea of blood and corpses. "Often, wrathful objects give you more chance as an artist to have fun," says Luczanits. He is depicted with a fiery mane, alluding to his veneration by metalsmiths.
Where to find it: "Gateway to Himalayan Art," ongoing

The Tibetan Shrine Room
Start your trip in this second-floor space, which sets a meditative tone with lit candles and recordings of Buddhist chants. The items on view here are on loan from collector Alice S. Kandell, and include statues, Tibetan furnishings, textiles and more. "The special thing about this exhibit is the assembly of relics from different regions," says museum curator Christian Luczanits.
Where to find it: "Gateway to Himalayan Art," second floor, ongoing.

Diverse Forms of Mahakala and Other Protectors, 1805–1815
Scholars know that this piece, unlike most East Asian art, which can be difficult to identify beyond a time period and a region, was created sometime during the lifetime of the ninth Dalai Lama (who is pictured on the top right side of the piece). Luczanits describes the work as being done in "Dalai Lama court style" (meaning it's especially ornate), noting the good quality of the hanging scroll and the exceptional artistry used to create it.
Where to find it:
"Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection," ongoing.

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