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I am a twenty-something in New York on a mission: to visit every museum within city limits.

Use this as a resource for New York museums and worldwide museum news (and I'll occasionally toss in some history into the mix)!
~ Monday, May 7 ~
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Singapore Architecture Students Compete to Turn the World’s Oldest University Into a Contemporary Campus


Courtesy wonderlane via Flickr
Nalanda University,

Architecture schools have a tendency to compel students to dream big. It is a lesson of life, as well as a lesson of the studio, to begin with a vision and then hone its form through compromise. But a group of architecture students from Singapore stand the chance to learn this lesson on a truly unprecedented scale. Fourteen students have teamed up to produce a master plan for the revival of the 5th century Nalanda University in Bihar, India. The group will present a draft of the plan to the Nalanda University directors, with the goal of partaking in a final competition to design a rehabilitated campus for the ancient institution.

Needless to say, the students are treading on a precious site, one that is thoroughly entrenched in history. The University of Nalanda was founded in the 5th century, making it the first center for higher learning in recorded history. At the height of its activity, the University’s pioneering inclusion of residential dormitories helped accommodate a population of 10,000 students and 2,000 professors, brought to Nalanda from China, Japan, Turkey, Greece, Persia, and other far off countries. Its alumni and associates include near-mythical scholars, such as the Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang and the Chinese Buddhist monk I Ching.

The ancient university also possesses an extraordinary architectural heritage, with its vast compounds, temples, meditation halls, and classrooms, interspersed with lakes and parks, and fortified by a massive wall. After centuries of successive sacking and rebuilding, the university has been more or less preserved in its 12th century state, left behind by invading Turks bent on uprooting Buddhism. It was not until 2010 that legislators pledged to pick up the thread of history and revive the ancient site into a functioning, contemporary university.

Under the guidance of Singaporean architect Tay Kheng Soon, the team of 14 architecture students toured the site of the university and conceived of a proposal for its renovation. Their plan consists of a series of state-of-the-art, contemporary buildings, but emphasis has been placed on including a functioning agricultural system within the campus and its immediate vicinity, reports The Hindu. The idea draws from historical precedents, as villages surrounding the ancient university had supplied food to the campus centuries ago. With this in mind, the students envision the new university as a similarly self-sufficient community with the appropriate features to facilitate contemporary cultural, environmental, and ecological studies.

If the proposal finds its way to the final competition, the students will participate in an estimated $1 billion renovation project that has already united China, India, Japan, and Singapore. The hopeful young architects could take on an endeavor that will not only revive a shared piece of world history, but also forge new international bonds. Plus they would have an exceptionally impressive project for their portfolios.

Tags: Nalanda Bihar India China Japan Turkey Greece Persia Tang Dynasty Buddhism Xuanzang monk Singapore Architecture Archaeology
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~ Thursday, April 26 ~
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China’s Terracotta Warriors Take New York City

EXHIBITION TO OPEN APRIL 27 AT DISCOVERY TIMES SQUARE FEATURING AUTHENTIC TERRACOTTA WARRIORS AND HUNDREDS OF ARTIFACTS FROM ANCIENT CHINA AND FIRST EMPEROR’S TOMB 

Terra Cotta Soldier

NEW YORK | April 16, 2012 | PRNewswire

Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China's First Emperor, a new immersive exhibition of one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in modern time, is set to make its Northeast U.S. debut in New York City at Discovery Times Square (226 West 44th Street) on April 27.  The exhibition will feature artifacts dating back to 221 BCE, including the world premiere of a set of gates from an ancient Han burial chamber, the U.S. debut of more than 20 artifacts, and an up-close look at 10 of the authentic, life-sized clay soldiers and their armor.

Standing more than six feet tall and weighing 600 pounds each, the terracotta soldiers were created more than 2,000 years ago with unprecedented craftsmanship to protect China's First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, in his afterlife. After founding the first united China, Qin Shihuangdi was responsible for building and unifying various sections of the Great Wall of China and a massive national road system that has continued to evolve over centuries.

Tickets will be available to the general public starting at midnight on Saturday, April 21. American Express® Cardmembers can purchase advance tickets now through April 20 at www.DiscoveryTS.com/axp, by phone (866-987-9692) or by visiting the box office within the venue.  Use any American Express Card to purchase tickets to Terracotta Warriors and receive one complimentary audio tour. 

Since its accidental discovery in 1974, the Terracotta Army continues its legacy as one of the most sought after collections of artifacts from ancient China. The exhibition created and produced by Discovery Times Square in partnership with China Institute will provide a unique way of understanding China's history.

"Since its founding in 1926, China Institute has advanced a deeper understanding of China through exhibitions and programs in education, culture and art. We are very pleased to partner in this groundbreaking exhibition, bringing the Terracotta Warriors and the history they represent to New York,” said Sara Judge McCalpin, President of China Institute. 

James Sanna, CEO of Discovery Times Square, added: “It’s a great honor to have the opportunity to work with these legendary artifacts and craft a one-of-a-kind experience immersing visitors into a time that was so influential in shaping China's history. We are proud to partner with New York's China Institute, the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, and the Shaanxi Provincial Museum Association to present these artifacts here in the heart of Times Square.”

The exhibit contains three chronological exhibition stages. Upon entry, visitors will first learn the history of the Qin Dynasty and the First Emperor’s rise to power, followed by the significance of the Terracotta Warriors, and the peaceful life of the ensuing Han Dynasty, which established essential Chinese traditions still reflected in Chinese society today. 

In addition to the Terracotta Warriors and burial chamber gates, more than 200 additional artifacts and treasures will be displayed, including a bronze ritual vessel “He” (water or wine container), a “Lai” Ding (cooking utensil), and gold pendants and ornaments.

Discovery Times Square is open seven days a week. Tickets are available for $19.50 (child 4-12), $25.00 (adult) and $22.50(senior = 65). Special savings for groups of 10 or more are available with advanced reservation.  Once open, the last tickets are sold 60 minutes prior to closing. For individual tickets and venue hours, visit www.DiscoveryTS.com, call 866.9.TSXNYC (866-987-9692) or visit the Discovery Times Square box office. Follow Discovery Times Square on Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date information.

ABOUT DISCOVERY TIMES SQUARE

Discovery Times Square (DTS) is New York City's first large-scale exhibition center presenting visitors with limited-run, educational and immersive exhibit experiences while exploring the world's defining cultures, art, history and events. More than a museum, DTS has featured a renowned line-up of exhibitions including Titanic: The Artifact ExhibitionLeonardo Da Vinci's WorkshopKing Tut, Pompeii The Exhibit, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, and most recently Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition. DTS is located at 226 West 44th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenues).

ABOUT CHINA INSTITUTE

China Institute advances a deeper understanding of China through programs in education, culture, business and art in the belief that cross-cultural understanding strengthens our global community. Founded in 1926 by a group of American and Chinese educators, China Institute in America is the oldest bicultural non-profit organization in the U.S. to focus exclusively on China. The organization promotes the appreciation of Chinese heritage and provides the historical context for understanding contemporary China. Programs, activities, courses and seminars are offered on the visual and performing arts, culture, history, music, philosophy, language and literature for the general public, children, and teachers, as well as for business. China Institute Gallery, established in 1966, is distinct among the museums of New York City. It was the first in the United States to showcase Chinese art exclusively on a regular basis. Today, China Institute Gallery is New York's only non-commercial exhibition space solely dedicated to Chinese art and is known for its innovative thematic and scholarly exhibitions, publications and related art education programs.

(Source: prnewswire.com)

Tags: terra cotta soldier terra cotta warrior china discovery times square Discovery museums New York City NYC China Institute Times Square Titanic King Tut Pompeii Harry Potter Dead Sea
~ Saturday, November 12 ~
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The Rubin Museum of Art

The young Rubin Museum of art, as featured in NY Magazine in 2005:

http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/art/reviews/9974/

In contrast to the reviewer, I saw less of a museum devoted to the Buddha than to art itself; this was one point that I kept grappling with as I ascended each floor on the Barney’s spiral staircase.  The Rubin Museum of Art: Art of the Himalayas, is bound to have a bountiful collection of Tibetan Buddhist artifacts, but one thing to keep in mind, which I think would be better for the visitor, is that this is a museum devoted to the art and not the religion.  As a result, the galleries are built around educating certain concepts from the religion that are depicted in the artwork.  That being said, before you enter, keep in mind that because of the geographic location of the Himalayas, there is a wide range of artworks from India, China, Nepal, Tibet, and other neighboring areas. 

This is a blurry photo (dim lights do not go well with the Iphone 3GS camera), but you can see that this entire left side of the lobby is quite long, and the window area is lined with the bookstore to the left of this photograph.  The bookstore has a variety of books from the more expensive, large bound, hardcovers to the small pocket-sized Dao De Jing.  They also have jewelry and other museum memorabilia. The right side of the lobby is an open space with the iconic metal staircase leftover from when Barney’s occupied this space (see below). 

The lobby is definitely my favorite part of the museum architecturally because it was so open, pleasant, and inviting.  I love the hardwood floors, and this lobby is more or less how I imagined the Rubin to look like. The smells of curries and spices from the cafe also made my stomach stir.  I really wanted to order some food, sit down, and enjoy reading a book or engage in a really intellectual discussion about the larger questions.  But alas, that will be for another day.

(I also heard that the Rubin has a great program for young professionals; for example, according to their website, “Every Friday night the café becomes the K2 Lounge, offering a special Pan-Asian tapas menu along with a martini and wine bar to accompany the evening’s DJ and thematic gallery tours and programs.”  Perhaps this is something to keep in mind as well…  This is definitely a big thing now, youth initiative programs, even at the American Museum of Natural History where we have the SciCafe series and other events.)

The iconic Barney’s metal staircase on the right side of the lobby. 

And the journey begins! The exhibitions continue as you climb up the stairs, so this is the second level at the top of the stairs.

I liked this interactive map; it leads visitors to the right (and continuing in a circle around the floor until they return to the stairs) while it also highlights the region of Tibet.  Maps are always a useful tool, especially in the context of Tibetan Buddhist and Himalayan art, which is influenced by both Indian and Chinese traditions. This is just one part of a video on loop. 

Another thing to keep in mind is the dramatic lighting that the curators use in the entire museum.  I actually wish that there were moments of more uniform lighting because it became quite tiring for my eyes after traipsing through four floors of it.  I liked the layout of the second floor, where different types of deities are grouped around a large wall placard of information.  This photo is of the “Wrathful Deities” group with a painting, the information and outline drawing of the painting on the placard, and a statue.  It was visually interesting to see the flat painting interacting with the three-dimensional sculpture (and the placard to offset the two), all with a similar iconographic image of a “Wrathful Deity.” 

It would take a very good camera to do justice to these artworks.  The color is so bright in some cases and so subtle in other cases, and the level of detail was incredible in each piece of artwork.  With the paintings especially, I found myself constantly walking closer and farther from the glass so that I could examine the details while taking in the entire piece at once. I recommend you do this as well, especially when you are particularly fixated on one piece, spend time looking for the minutia and remember to step back, or else you will lose the focal point of the piece.

I really love how active these sculptures are.

So moving right along, the Rubin also has a significantly large wall that is devoted to explaining the most commonly used images in the artwork as well as the meanings behind the various hand gestures of the Buddha (mudras).  They had a very handy handout version of this wall text, and it’s free!  Definitely a great giveaway for anyone who is unfamiliar with these icons.

This is like Buddhist art 101.  I also really like their line drawings of the symbols too.  One thing I wondered about though, was if their information placards (“Wrathful Deities”) and this wall of symbols can be used as a universal guide for all Tibetan Buddhist schools.  Perhaps the symbols in the artifacts may be universal, but I think that the information on the large placards should contain more material about if these icons were used in certain parts of Tibet (if this occurs) and maybe if some of the styles were imported from India or China.  I noticed that many of the pieces had a distinctly Indian Hindu feel to them.  I will have to read up on my Tibetan Buddhist cultural history to explore this question further… Maybe in another way, there should have been a disclaimer-like paragraph at the very beginning of the exhibits that reminds the visitor that there are different schools in Tibetan Buddhism?

There was also a prayer room in the far corner of one of the floors, where cameras were prohibited, but it was a really nicely arranged niche where you can lean against the wall on some small protruding seats and enjoy the aura.  There are two ear pieces that play a recording of an entire explanation of the icons and items in the room. 

Below I have some nicer photos of other pieces in the main collection.  I was a little surprised to see that all of the artifacts were made relatively late, 16th century and after, if I remember correctly.  I’m sure there is a reason for this; this is another question which I will put on my list of things to research.  (Another side note, I did not like that each of the walls on the exhibition floors were painted a dark color, like dark grey and dark red.  I thought that it took away some color from the artwork, since most of the paintings had a lot of red, blue, and gold in them.  I felt like the colors were being washed away.  This also seems to be a new trend in museums, to paint walls dark colors.)

This is an example of Buddhist artifacts from China.  This is a statue of an Arhat (in Chinese, Luohan), one of 18 sage-like figures.  He is standing in a very traditional greeting pose with his right hand cupped over his left fist. 

Speaking of detail, I was able to have a glare-less photo of this painting.  I don’t really need to say anything here, just that the photo might be magnifying it to a certain extent.  This is so highly detailed and intricate and colorful.  I loved this piece!

This is what I really think of when I think of Tibetan Buddhism.  I thought that this piece was spectacular.

This is a very important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, and his image is repeated quite often.

I liked this part too, where they have a cushion to gaze at a piece mounted on a floor that is slightly lower than the rest of the level.  I thought this was a great idea, and the space felt very intimate.

Photography is prohibited on the upper floors for special exhibitions.

The Rubin Museum of Art

150 W. 17 St.

NYC 10011

Museum Hours

Monday: 11 a.m – 5 p.m.
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 11 a.m – 7 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m – 5 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m – 10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m – 6 p.m.

The museum is closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day.

Admission

Adults - $10.00
Seniors (65 and older) - $5.00
Students - $5.00
Children (12 and younger) - Free
Museum members - Free

Coat Check (per item) - $1.00

Audio Tours - $3.00, free for members

Gallery admission is free for all every Friday from 6 – 10 p.m.

Gallery admission is free for seniors on the first Monday of every month.

http://rmanyc.org

Tags: RUBIN MUSEUM art himalayas tibet buddha india china Buddhism Museums
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