Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea February 10-May 7, 2017
NASHVILLE, TN – Organized by the Newark Museum exclusively for the Frist Center, Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea explores one of the great faiths of the world through paintings and sculptures by Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan artists. On view in the Center’s Ingram Gallery from February 10 through May 7, 2017, the exhibition features 109 paintings and sculptures from the Newark Museum’s world-renowned collection of Buddhist art made between the late thirteenth and early twentieth centuries.Secrets of Buddhist Art provides a basic understanding of how these artistic objects function within the esoteric or “secret” Vajrayana branch of Buddhism. Between the fourth and third centuries BCE, Buddhism split into two main branches: Mahayana and Theravada. Seven centuries later, in the third century, a third form, called Vajrayana, rose within the Mahayana branch. This esoteric school dominates Tibetan practice and is also prominent in Japan. Its devotees participate in initiation and empowerment ceremonies kept secret from outsiders. “A key to understanding these secrets is to study the complex array of both human and divine figures within esoteric Buddhism, as well as the rich, multilayered vocabularies of motifs that instruct and assist practitioners,” said Katherine Anne Paul, curator, Arts of Asia, Newark Museum.
This exhibition marks the first time that a selection of traditional Korean art – including a major depiction of the Geumgangsan Diamond Mountains on a folding screen, as well as 15 other pieces – will be presented in Nashville. “The thematic groupings of objects intentionally transcend national boundaries and encourage viewers to compare each cultures’ interpretations of Buddhism and their distinguishing aesthetic forms and styles,” said Frist Center curator Katie Delmez.
Images of the historical Buddha, born Siddhartha Gautama in the sixth century BCE in present-day Nepal, are prevalent throughout the Buddhist world, as are depictions of great events from his many lifetimes, especially his miraculous birth, departure from home, attainment of enlightenment, first sermon at Deer Park, and realization of nirvana upon his final death.
Buddhist practices of Tibet, Japan, and Korea are also populated with other non-historical Buddhas as well as numerous bodhisattvas. “Bodhisattvas are spiritually realized figures who have attained enlightenment but postpone nirvana (the ceasing of cyclic existence) to assist other sentient beings until all become enlightened,” said Paul. “In art, bodhisattvas frequently are distinguished from Buddhas by jewelry-diadems, earrings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets, anklets-and by luxurious, often gravity-defying clothing that floats around them.”
Secrets of Buddhist Art includes sections that examine how Buddhism explains the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and which particular Buddha and bodhisattvas are worshipped to promote good health, longevity, and increased wealth. The exhibition also features portraits of teachers and students not only from different regions and periods of time, but also from different Buddhist schools within each region. Particularly rare for any museum collection are the two complete sets of biographical paintings. The detailed hagiographies (biographies of saints) include fifteen Tibetan paintings that illustrate the life of Tsongkhapa and four Japanese paintings that illuminate the life of Tokuhon.
Tibetan Monks to Create Mandala in Education Gallery
As the featured component of the exhibition’s education gallery, Ritual in Action: Making a Mandala Sand Painting, seven Tibetan monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery in India will construct a mandala with millions of grains of colored sand. Mandalas are elaborate circular designs that are intended to represent the universe or a cosmic order. The making of temporary sand mandalas is an expression of devotion unique to Tibetan Buddhism. “The mandala connects to the older works of art and reminds us that this is very much a living practice,” said Delmez.
Beginning on Friday, February 10, visitors can watch the monks work for five consecutive days. The mandala will remain on view for the duration of the exhibition. On Sunday, May 7, the monks will return for the Frist Center’s Free Family Festival Day, ritually destroying the mandala in a closing ceremony that symbolizes impermanence.
Belmont University’s Asian Studies Symposium
Representations of Buddhism, the 2016-2017 Asian Studies Symposium at Belmont University in Nashville, will be held Monday-Friday, February 13-17, and will support Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea, with speakers on divergent facets of Buddhism in art, literature, popular culture, social activism, and personal journeys.
For additional information, call 615.244.3340 or visit fristcenter.org
Category: Antiques News