“The Rubin Museum of Art invites visitors to unplug and discover the possibility to free their minds with ‘Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightenment’. Organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, this traveling exhibition guides visitors on a journey toward enlightenment, showcasing the power of Tibetan Buddhist art to focus and refine awareness, and highlighting the inextricable relationship between artistic endeavor and spiritual practice in Tibetan Buddhism. The exhibition has been re-imagined and adapted for the Rubin Museum’s galleries and features 35 traditional objects, including 14 from the Rubin Museum’s collection, with two contemporary works by Nepal born, Tibetan American artist Tsherin Sherpa.
The exhibition introduces the central teachings of Tibetan Buddhism as visitors progress through ten milestones on the journey from the chaos of ordinary life to the awakened states of awareness. At the entrance, visitors encounter a video collage reflecting our fragmented, overstimulated contemporary world. It echoes the main idea in Tsherin Sherpa’s abstracted 16-panel painting Luxation 1 (2016), which presents a split, incomplete view of a deity. From the start, the exhibition points to a central question: are we truly awake? Or are we lulled asleep by the ordinary world’s clamor and therefore blind to the true nature of reality and destined to suffer? As a way out of the chaos, the show presents a path of transformation facilitated by Tibetan Buddhist art in which the practitioner progresses toward awareness and enlightenment with the help from a guide, allies, and a map.” — The Rubin Museum of Art
Installation views of “Awaken: a Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightenment,” organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, presented by the Rubin Museum of Art, March 12, 2021 – January 3, 2022, Photos by David De Armas, Courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art.
“The title ‘Awaken’ references the word ‘Buddha,’ which means ‘awake,’” says Rubin Museum Curator of Himalayan Art Elena Pakhoutova. “To be awake is to see the full picture of existence: to understand that all things are ever-changing and interconnected, and that nothing exists by itself. By recognizing this, we can begin to glimpse at what an awakened state of mind is.”
“Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightenment” is organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It was originally curated by John Henry Rice, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Jeffrey Durham, Associate Curator of Himalayan Art, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. At the Rubin Museum of Art it was curated by Elena Pakhoutova, Curator of Himalayan Art, Rubin Museum of Art.