10 August 2011

When East Met West Under the Buddha’s Gaze

When East Met West Under the Buddha’s Gaze, by Holland Cotter (New York Times, 10 August 2011)

After what seemed like an endless run of geopolitical roadblocks, “The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara” has finally come, six months late, from Pakistan to Asia Society. Is the show worth all the diplomatic headaches it caused? With its images of bruiser bodhisattvas, polycultural goddesses and occasional flights into stratosphere splendor, it is.

That all but a handful of the 75 sculptures are from museums in Lahore and Karachi is in itself remarkable. Any effort to borrow ancient art from South Asia is fraught, even in the best of times. For an entire show of loans to make the trip, and in a period when Pakistan and the United States are barely on speaking terms, is miraculous. (Without the persistent effort of Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, the exhibition would almost certainly never have happened.) So the show has a cliffhanger back story as an attraction, and some monumental work, like the fantastic relief called “Vision of a Buddha’s Paradise.” (Dated to the fourth century A.D., it’s a kind of flash-mob version of heaven.)
Link: When East Met West Under the Buddha’s Gaze