The New York Times devotes major coverage to Asia Society Museum's upcoming exhibition The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara today, in a piece with enough international intrigue and behind-the-scenes maneuvering to fill a thriller novel.
The exhibition consists of nearly 70 pieces of Buddhist art — sculptures, architectural reliefs and bronze and gold pieces — from the Gandharan kingdom, which was located primarily in present-day eastern Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan and reached its zenith under a series of Buddhist kings from the first through fifth centuries C.E.
The majority of artworks in the exhibition are on loan from Pakistan's National Museum in Karachi and Central Museum in Lahore. As the Times article notes, "Shows that depend on loans from abroad are often fraught with difficulties, with museum directors jealously guarding national treasures."
In this case, however, those difficulties were compounded by bureaucracy, visa problems and, most of all, an unprecedented rise in tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan, stoked by such events as the Raymond Davis affair and, later, the American raid that resulted in Osama Bin Laden's killing.
In such a climate, some Pakistani officials were loath to send national treasures for public viewing in New York City.
But Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu refused to give up on the exhibition. The Times story details how her extended networking and repeat visits to Pakistan eventually led to the works' being shipped by plane from Lahore and Karachi, with the result that The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara, originally scheduled for March, opens at Asia Society Museum on August 9 and runs through October 30.
Chiu told the Times, "I persisted because this is a unique opportunity for us to show the cultural heritage of Pakistan at a time when U.S.-Pakistan relations are probably at their lowest ever."