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The Arts of Kashmir

The Arts of Kashmir

3 October 2007 - 8 January 2008
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Foliated tray, nineteenth century. Copper gilt. Victoria & Albert Museum.
Foliated tray, nineteenth century. Copper gilt. Victoria & Albert Museum.
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An important cultural bridge between the Indian subcontinent and regions to the west and east for over two millennia, the Kashmir Valley was a vibrant hub of intellectual activity for its Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim populations. Multiple cultural influences have fostered a unique artistic environment of diverse aesthetics, witnessed in this landmark exhibition of 130 sumptuous objects of exemplary quality, dating from the 2nd to the 20th centuries.

The Arts of Kashmir comprises works of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic art, including sculpture, painting, and calligraphy loaned from collections in the U.S., Europe, and India. Many of the objects have never been seen outside of India; in some cases they have never been exhibited or published anywhere.

To provide a sense of the broad artistic contributions of this famously lush and beautiful region, the exhibition includes examples of stone and bronze sculptures and manuscript paintings, in addition to the fine examples of papier-mâché, carpets, shawls, and embroidery for which Kashmir is renowned.

"The Arts of Kashmir exhibition aims to increase understanding of the historic artistic importance of the Kashmir Valley and the important role of the region in the development of intellectual life in South Asia," says Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu. "Understanding Kashmiri cultural heritage is crucial for all of us in today's world, especially because it tends to be overly simplified in much of the current reportage on this disputed region."

The Arts of Kashmir curator Dr. Pratapaditya Pal, the world's leading authority on the subject, comments that the exhibition "tells the story of generations of Kashmiris who excelled in producing art in a wide variety of media, not only the shawls that have become almost synonymous with Kashmir."

The author of more than 50 books and numerous major exhibitions, Dr. Pal has conducted pioneering research on the arts of Tibet, Nepal, and India. A fully illustrated, 224-page scholarly book edited and authored by Dr. Pal — with contributions by Frank Ames, Simon Digby, Gerald James Larson, and John Siudmak — accompanies the exhibition. More expansive than an exhibition catalogue, the book includes chapters on the distinctive architecture and other cultural expressions of Kashmir as well as photographs of the region's distinctively beautiful natural landscape.

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