“Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism”

“Although Buddhism is often associated with the principles of nonviolence and nonattachment, Tibet’s esoteric form of the religion was historically inseparable from that country’s politics and power struggles.”

Although Buddhism is often associated with the principles of nonviolence and nonattachment, Tibet’s esoteric form of the religion was historically inseparable from Northern Asian politics and power struggles. This exhibition focuses on the Tibetan model of sacral rulership and the use of Buddhist artworks as both ritual objects and propaganda tools. Spanning the eighth to the nineteenth centuries, it draws from the Rubin Museum’s holdings of Himalayan art, as well as from the Asian collections of the Musée Guimet in Paris, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and other institutions. Among the offerings are such treasures as a fourteenth-century polychrome sculpture of a chubby Panjaranatha Mahakala, the protector of Buddhism, and a seventeenth-century painting of Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617–1682), the first Dalai Lama to become both the spiritual and the temporal leader of Tibet.