Gateway to Himalayan Art introduces visitors to the art of the Himalayan cultural sphere, presenting the major concepts comprehensively and equipping visitors with the tools to understand, appreciate and contextualize many of the works of art throughout the museum's six floors of galleries.
The exhibition begins with a large map and multimedia display of the Himalayas which orient visitors to the geographic scope and diversity of this region, including Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan as well as adjacent areas of India, China, and Mongolia, that are distinct but culturally interrelated.
From there, the exhibition invites visitors to explore the symbolism and iconography central to understanding the content in most Himalayan paintings and sculptures, including identifying characteristics of buddhas, bodhisattvas, female, as well as peaceful and wrathful deities. Visitors can pick up a "Looking Guide" with tips for easy recognition of the figures and symbols to carry with them as they look at works of art throughout the museum.
The next section demonstrates materials and techniques with which paintings and sculptures are traditionally made. A highlight of this section is a detailed three-dimensional installation which presents the intricate six-stage process of Nepalese metal casting in lost wax technique. Methods of thangka painting, iconometry (guidelines for body proportions), and other mediums of production such as clay, stone, and wood sculpture, woodblock printing, painting on paper and textile artworks, are also represented here. Interactive monitors will allow visitors to delve deeper into different kinds of Himalayan paintings structures and compositions.
The third section addresses purposes and functions of commissioning and use of Himalayan works of art, including secular concerns such as long life and wealth, the accumulation of merit, and spiritual gains that would be attained by the individuals who commissioned the works and fulfilled through ritual functions and uses of these objects.
Beginning in October 2010, Gateway to Himalayan Art will be home to a spectacular Buddhist shrine room, on long-term loan from the Alice S. Kandell Collection and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The shrine room will contain approximately 170 works of art created between the 13th and 19th centuries from the Tibetan Plateau, China and Mongolia shown in the religious context in which these sacred objects would be found in a private Tibetan shrine.