Embodying Compassion in Buddhist Art: Image, Pilgrimage, Practice
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
April 23 to June 28, 2015
This is the first transcultural exhibition in America solely devoted to the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who emerged in India two thousand years ago to become a venerated deity throughout Asia. Like all bodhisattvas, this figure selflessly leads others to enlightenment, but Avalokiteshvara’s special role is to exemplify limitless compassion, a fundamental ideal in Mahayana Buddhism. Sometimes appearing as male, sometimes female, the bodhisattva is known as Chenrezig in Tibet, Guanyin in China, and Kannon in Japan.
This exhibition presents outstanding examples of Indian, Nepalese, Chinese, and Japanese art from prominent institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton University Art Museum, The Rubin Museum of Art, Asia Society, and The Newark Museum, augmenting objects from the Loeb Art Center’s permanent collection and other sources. The exhibition demonstrates how artistic depictions of Avalokiteshvara inspire his followers through contact with auspicious images, pilgrimage, and daily spiritual practice. Providing a rare opportunity to compare different representations of Avalokiteshvara from many Asian countries, the show also reveals the core Buddhist beliefs that underlie his/her many manifestations, and why this bodhisattva still plays such a vital role in Asian culture today. Curated by Karen Lucic, professor of art at Vassar College, Embodying Compassion in Buddhist Art is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, a smartphone app, a website, and a rich array of related events.