Rarely Exhibited Buddhist Ritual Art on View at Holy Cross’ Cantor Art Gallery Throughout Fall Semester

Exhibition made possible by $100K NEH grant
July 17th, 2019 by 

Vajracharya Priest’s Crown, 13th – early 14th century.
Vajracharya Priest’s Crown, 13th – early 14th century. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The College of the Holy Cross, in conjunction with the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, are pleased to announce that the National Endowment of the Humanities has awarded a $100,000 grant in support of a major exhibition of Buddhist ritual art. “Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art of Nepal” will be on view in the campus art gallery throughout the fall semester beginning Thursday, Sept. 5 through Dec. 14.

Spearheaded by co-curators Todd T. Lewis, distinguished professor of arts and humanities and professor of religious studies at the College, and Jinah Kim, professor of history of art and architecture at Harvard University, the exhibition will be displaying historic objects of Buddhist devotion, on loan from major art institutions and private collectors, and will be accompanied by extensive programming.

The award is the result of an application submitted for consideration to the NEH last summer by the co-curators and the director of the Cantor Art Gallery, Roger Hankins, with assistance from the College’s offices of Sponsored Research and Foundation and Corporate Relations. Lewis, a specialist in South Asian religions, and Kim, an art historian who focuses on Asian art, have been developing the exhibition for several years in collaboration with Hankins.

One in eight projects submitted nationally are awarded funding. According to Lewis, “This grant has enabled the College to borrow and display at Holy Cross some of the finest examples of Buddhist ritual art from Nepal from leading museums, including the first display of a monumental banner painting that displays the origin story of the Kathmandu Valley as a Buddhist holy place.”

“The NEH grant has allowed this project to proceed in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without it,” Hankins explains, “The institutional requirements for each of the lenders are substantial as the ritual items being borrowed are historical objects, such as a Vajracharya priest’s crown from the 13th century and rare manuscripts from as early as the 11th century.”

Lewis and Kim will host the world’s leading scholars on campus to provide an understanding of context and significance of various important objects for a series of lectures that will take place throughout the semester. Featured speakers Holland Cotter of the New York Times and John Guy from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will be co-sponsored by the Rev. Michael C. McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture.

Throughout the exhibition, Buddhist rituals rarely seen outside Nepal will be performed by Naresh Bajracharya, a visiting Fulbright scholar from Kathmandu, Nepal, events that will invite participation from the region’s Nepali immigrants as well as the general public. A conference on major themes in the exhibition will be held in early December at Harvard University and Holy Cross, led by Kim.

“Dharma and Punya” will highlight Nepal’s artistic heritage as a rich and enduring continuation of Indic Buddhist traditions, featuring paintings, illustrated texts, sculptures, and ritual implements that were crafted by Newar artisans over the last millennium. Lewis and Kim worked with curators at the Harvard Art Museums and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Freer Sackler Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio; the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond, Virginia; and private lenders to select pieces that will illustrate the centrality of ritual in Buddhism, highlighting visual narratives that will show common practices every devotee needed to know to make good karma (punya), a central tenet of the Buddha’s teaching (dharma).

With some objects never before displayed in the West, this historic exhibition will focus on the unparalleled contributions of Kathmandu Valley artisans and patrons not only in their communities, but in the subsequent development of Tibetan art. It also re-frames the popular understanding of Buddhism as a lived religion, centered on ritual traditions oriented toward householders.

An exhibition catalog of the same title, published by Brill, a leading academic publisher, is forthcoming in September and will be available for sale at the gallery.

 

EVENTS

Thursday, September 5

Lecture by Curator Dr. Todd Lewis

“How Art is Central to Buddhist Tradition”

4:30 p.m. | Rehm Library

 

The week of September 9 -13, Sand Mandala Creation

Naresh Bajracharya, Visiting Fulbright Professor from Kathmandu, Nepal

Daily 4 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

 

Thursday, September 12

Curators’ Talk by Dr. Jinah Kim and Dr. Todd Lewis

4:30 | Rehm Library

Opening Reception

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

 

Saturday, September 14

Pratistha Rituals for Exhibition Stupas and Images

Naresh Bajracharya, Visiting Fulbright Professor from Kathmandu, Nepal

1 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

 

Thursday, September 19

Lecture by Sonali Dhingra, Harvard University

“The Multilayered Nature of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in Nepal”

4:30 p.m. | O’Kane 495

 

Saturday, September 21

Storytelling Session: “The Simhalasarthabahu Tale”

Naresh Bajracharya, Visiting Fulbright Professor from Kathmandu, Nepal

1 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

 

Thursday, Sept 26

Lecture by John Guy, Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia, Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Crowns of Transformation: How Vajrācāryas Become Bodhisattvas”

4:30 p.m. | Rehm Library

Co-sponsored with the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture

 

Saturday, September 28

Gallery Talk by Louis Copplestone, Harvard University

1 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

 

Tuesday, October 1

Lecture by Dr. Alexander von Rospatt, University of California, Berkeley

“Svayambhū Purāna Bilampau”

4:30 p.m. | Rehm Library

 

Thursday, October 3

Lecture by Dr. Gudrun Bühnemann, University of Wisconsin, Madison

“Śākyamuni’s Lumbinīyātrā: A Visual Tradition and its Context”

4:30 p.m. | O’Kane 495

 

Saturday, October 5

Vasundhara Vrata Practice

Naresh Bajracharya, Visiting Fulbright Professor from Kathmandu, Nepal

1 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

 

Wednesday, October 9

Lecture by Dr. Gautama Vajracharya, Professor Emeritus, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Wisconsin, Madison

“Kinnari Jātaka Painting: Another Example of Newar Artistic Creativity”

7 p.m. | O’Kane 495

 

Thursday, October 24

Lecture by Curator Dr. Jinah Kim, Harvard University

“Performing Texts: Manuscripts and Paubhas as Ritual Objects”

4:30 p.m. | Rehm Library

 

Wednesday, October 30

Documentary Film Screening: “On the Road with the Red God” (75 minutes)

4:30 p.m. | Rehm Library

 

Thursday, November 7

Lecture by Dr. Bruce Owens, Wheaton College

“Local Manifestations of Universal Compassion: Lokesvara of the Four Places in Nepal”

7 p.m. | O’Kane 495

 

Saturday, November 9

Making Clay Stupas

Naresh Bajracharya, Visiting Fulbright Professor from Kathmandu, Nepal

1 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

 

Thursday, November 14

Lecture by Holland Cotter, co-chief art critic of The New York Times

“Believe in Belief: Looking at Religious Art”

4:30 p.m. | Rehm Library

Co-sponsored with the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture

 

Thursday, December 5 -7

Exhibition Symposium

Harvard University (5th & 6th) and Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross (7th)

 

NOTE: Locations subject to change, please confirm prior to the event by visiting the Gallery’s website at www.holycross.edu/cantorartgallery.

“Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art of Nepal” has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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