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Rubin Museum exhibition highlights the magical legends of Buddhist master Padmasambhav
Vajrakilaya of the Eight Pronouncements Tibet; ca. late 13th century. Pigments on cloth h. 24 x 22 1/2 in. (61 x 57 cm). Collection of Michael and Beata McCormick.

NEW YORK, NY.- In 2018, the future will be both present and projected from the past at the Rubin Museum of Art, with a new exhibition where visitors will discover the legends of the tantric master Padmasambhava. An iconic figure in Tibetan culture celebrated as “The Second Buddha,” Padmasambhava is known for bringing Buddhism to Tibet and is believed to have concealed treasure teachings for future discovery. Opening February 2, “The Second Buddha: Master of Time” brings together 41 works of art from the 13th to 20th century with interactive technology, enabling visitors to discover hidden meanings in the artworks.

The legends of the Second Buddha carry universal relevance about triumph over obstacles, transformation, and notions of time. Launching the Rubin’s yearlong theme of “The Future,” the exhibition will highlight the interconnected nature of the past and future, especially the treasure teachings that Padmasambhava is said to have concealed in physical locations and his disciples’ minds for future discovery. Many of the stunning works on view depict these treasure teachings, which were revealed by disciples at opportune times centuries later. To parallel the discovery of these treasure teachings, visitors will also activate and reveal objects in the gallery to find their hidden meanings. Using Augmented Reality (AR) technology in the exhibition, visitors will discover concealed content in several artworks, and motionresponsive lighting effects will reveal select paintings’ inherent power. These experiential elements will add another dimension to the narratives and themes depicted in these works of art.

“The traditional visual culture centered on Padmasambhava offers rich material to explore universal notions that transcend time and cultures,” said Elena Pakhoutova, curator. “Tibetans tie their cultural identity to stories about this famous enlightened master which have been written and rewritten over centuries and are still being told, retold, and expressed in diverse forms of visual and performed arts. The system of concealed treasure teachings continues to sustain the Buddhist tradition today. By presenting the legends embedded in this visual material for a contemporary audience, we invite visitors to think about the interrelated nature of the past and future, how it serves to construct our individual and collective identities, and how we ourselves enable a meaningful future.”

The exhibition is organized in three sections, the first of which introduces the legendary master Padmasambhava in the context of Tibetan cultural history. The other two sections delve into the concealed treasure teachings and the interconnected nature of the past and future. Through interactive AR technology, visitors will discover hidden content in the paintings and sculptures on view. Audio tour devices will also be available for a self-guided exploration of the exhibition. Scheduled performances by professional storytellers will make the images in the exhibition come alive.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication, co-produced with Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, and will travel to the Tang Museum in 2019.

In fall 2018, the Rubin Museum will hold a seminar organized in partnership with Columbia University and Skidmore College that will explore the significance of Padmasambhava in more diverse contexts and bring together scholars and representatives of Tibetan Buddhist traditions and practitioners.

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