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Arts & Culture

Gateway to Himalayan Art exhibition brings ancient Buddhist relics to Lehigh Valley

Julian Abraham
A section of the gallery shows a sculpture-making technique that has since gone out of style. When this photo was taken, staff were still setting up, as you can see on the left side of the image.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Dozens of red crates full of carefully packed Buddhist relics landed at Lehigh University Art Galleries last year.

They now have been opened up, and their contents — some of them thousands of years old — are on display.

  • 'Gateway to Himalayan Art' is running at the Lehigh University Art Galleries until May 26
  • It showcases a number of ancient Buddhist art pieces, mainly from the Himalayan region
  • The pieces are borrowed from the Rubin Museum of Art in New York
  • It's free to visit and open to the public

"Well, some of the crates contain paintings, and a particular type of painting that's included in the exhibition [is] called Thangka, which are scroll paintings," William Crow, Director of the LUAG said.
Crow made that comment last year, while gleefully watching a team of staff wearing gloves delicately pull them out of the wooden box.

Julian Abraham
William Crow stands in front of a red crate containing ancient Buddhist art. Due to the delicate nature of the items, the crates couldn't be opened for days after landing in the Valley, giving the art materials time to adjust to the weather.

"These are paintings that take different forms, and really tell us about the life of the Buddha of different characters and figures that are from the Buddhist belief system or pantheon," he said.

The art comes from the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.

Elena Pakhoutova, Rubin's Senior Curator of Himalayan Art, said she is excited to share the work.

"So sometimes this kind of art and culture just falls through the cracks."
Elena Pakhoutova, Rubin's Senior Curator of Himalayan Art

"So sometimes this kind of art and culture just falls through the cracks," Pakhoutova said.

"But they offer so much to people, and we just wanted to share that and create this resource, which has not been available to people who just want to learn the basic and fundamental things about Himalayan art."

Pakhoutova also said people don't need to be an expert on the traditions and history of Himalayan art to get something out of visiting.

Lehigh University Art Galleries
Rubin Museum of Art
A figure of Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha, a version of the Buddha, on display at LUAG.

"Some people may be very new to this, so they will come out with something completely new and hopefully very interesting to them," she said.

"The exhibition will be used for teaching, not only just to look at the objects, so there [are] a lot of educational thoughts, or educational opportunities that were kind of built into the exhibition."

Gateway to Himalayan Art is scheduled to run until May 26, 2023 at the Lehigh University Art Galleries. It is free to visit and open to the public.