In Focus: Lakshmi


This exhibition explores the importance and worship of Lakshmi, a beloved goddess who is part of the complex Hindu culture that originated in India. Two historical and three contemporary artworks on display show transformations of the goddess’s image abroad.

At the center of this exhibition is a tenth-century Chola period sculpture from South India depicting Lakshmi standing with a lotus bud in her right hand, a symbol of the purity she represents. Lakshmi is also the goddess of good fortune, wealth, bounty, and beauty and is the consort of the god Vishnu, the preserver.

As images of Lakshmi circulated through other cultures, she began to take on new meanings. A Meiji period Japanese painted hanging scroll from Asia Society’s Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection depicts her in the Buddhist tradition, which was transmitted to Japan from China in the 8th century. During this time, Lakshmi became known as Kichijōten and was venerated as the popular goddess of wealth, beauty, and happiness. Later, her role further expanded to protector of good harvest, childbirth, and sea voyages.

Juxtaposed with the Chola Lakshmi and Kichijōten are three contemporary pieces by Roberto Custodio. This Brazilian artist and fashion photographer found inspiration in images of Hindu deities, which he researched in depth before creating renderings of Lakshmi in collage and India ink on board. His sumptuous, jewel-like works representing the goddess evoke contemporary commercial conceptions of beauty as well as elements of today’s world of high fashion and consumerism.

This exhibition is part of Asia Society Museum’s ongoing In Focus series, which invites viewers to take an in-depth look at a single, significant work of art.

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