A Trip to the Rubin Museum

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By MARGARET DESMOND

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

I went to the Himalayas last week. Ok, not the actual Himalayas but it felt pretty close. The Rubin Museum is unassuming on the outside, but once you enter, you are transported to the mystical East. The museum’s calm, darkened interior, combinds with the faint aroma of Eastern spices from the museum’s restaurant, work in tandem to create a unique experience.

The Rubin Museum is located on West 17th Street and was founded to display the art collection of Donald and Shelley Rubin. It began many years ago with a single piece called White Tara that the Rubins used all of their savings to buy because Donald felt a strong connection to the piece. Today, several hundred pieces are on rotating display in the museum, both from their private collection and other sources. Student admission is only $5.

When you walk in, the first thing you notice is the amazing spiral staircase right in the middle of the museum. Each floor is filled with intricately crafted gold statues and color saturated tapestries. These works of art feature buddhas, bodhisattvas and other religious figures from the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism.

The most stunning exhibit is the example of a Buddhist shrine. It is a small, dimly-lit room filled with countless statues that take your breath away. As your gaze wanders from statue to statue, soft chants provide a musical element that is almost otherworldly.

Rivaling this experience are the tapestries that recount the lives of different Dalai Lamas. These tapestries are overflowing with depictions of each Dalai Lama and different occurrences in their lives. The intense color and detail of the tapestries is overwhelming and evokes a sense of wonder beyond words.

The Rubin is a museum unlike any other that I have visited. Its atmosphere is peaceful and

the art is very different from the typical Western art displayed in so many of Manhattan’s museums. The art is extremely symbolic of Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. The culture is fascinating, and if you take the tour you just might learn how touching the Earth is symbolic of enlightenment or what the marks of the Buddha truly are.