Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Quote of the Day: Rubin Museum

In this placard from the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art, under the heading WHAT is Going On?:
Telling Men From Women

What ought to be an easy task, distinguishing men from women, is not always so. Many male deities are as graceful as women , and breasts can be hidden from view. In works of art after the 15th century, an added clue to gender can be found by looking closely at the hairline of figures. Women are more likely to have a high, rounded hairlines [sic] framing an oval face . Men are more characteristically shown with a hairline that is lower on the head and crosses the face in a straight line or with a small widow's peak. Take a look at the figures here for this identifying feature.
I like the museum's candor and practicality.

The Rubin Museum is one of Manhattan's least known, most extravagant, and well-funded specialty museums. For what it is, it's huge: 70,000 square feet and growing in a former Barneys department store building in Chelsea. By comparison, the celebrated new New Museum building is about 60,000 square feet.

The Rubin was founded in 1999 and opened in 2004 -- it's still relatively new. According to the Washington Post, the Rubins' interest in such art started more than 30 years ago:
"The story of this museum is our conversation with our own mortality," says Donald Rubin. "Shelly and I talked about it, and we did not want to come to the end of our lives without leaving a legacy."

Theirs was an accidental passion. The Rubins were strolling Madison Avenue one day in 1974 when they wandered into one of that boulevard's ubiquitous art galleries and spotted a Tibetan painting of a female Buddhist deity. Donald was at the time a 40-year-old health-care executive, a man in a hurry to build his business and make his pile. He saw that thangka, with its radiant periwinkle blues and golden hues, and he was pulled to a stop.

"It spoke to me in a way that I could not imagine," recalls Donald Rubin, a silver-haired 69-year-old whose voice carries the rough-hewn cadences of New York. "We hung that painting in our bedroom and it radiated outward. I knew nothing about this art except that it felt like falling in love."
The Rubins made their money in an HMO called Multiplan.

The Bodhisattva below is fairly unambiguously male; my interest in him is more for the bullet damage and lost limb. He's from Tibet, circa the 12th century. He's made of a copper alloy.



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