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Rubin Museum of Art exhibition is first to focus on rare images of Tibet's iconic architecture
Curator Natasha Kimmet.


NEW YORK, NY.- This fall, Rubin Museum of Art visitors will experience Tibet’s most renowned architectural sites through historical and contemporary eyes in the exhibition “Monumental Lhasa: Fortress, Palace, Temple.” Images of monuments and sacred sites like the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, and Taj Mahal act as powerful representations of place, and “Monumental Lhasa” is the first exhibition to explore this kind of visual representation in Tibet, featuring drawings, paintings, and photographs of landmarks created primarily by Tibetans and Westerners since the 18th century.

Bringing together over 50 works of art from the Rubin Museum collection as well as public and private collections across Europe and North America, the exhibition revives one of the original functions of these images—to transmit the holy city of Lhasa to a remote audience. Spanning art that ranges from pilgrimage maps to photo albums, the exhibition explores how images contribute to the iconic character, familiarity, and power of important landmarks.

“Architecture is deeply connected to our impression and experience of places. While we may never visit these sites ourselves, we often become acquainted with them through encounters with images on postcards, souvenirs, and various forms of media,” exhibition curator Natasha Kimmet said. “In Lhasa, Buddhist pilgrims and other visitors created images focused on the capital’s striking landmark buildings to recreate and convey their experience of this important religious and political center of Asia.”

The exhibition introduces visitors to the monumental palace-fortresses, sacred temples, and powerful monastic institutions that anchored the religious and political life of Lhasa, including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and Samye monastery. Rare visual representations of Lhasa demonstrate the appeal of these monuments, as well as how cross-cultural encounters shaped the production of images. While the Tibetan images are shaped by Buddhist religious and historical narratives, Western and other foreign visitors were focused on imperial exploration, travel, and scientific discovery, highlighting how architecture images have often been manipulated to convey the messages of patrons and artists. Tibetans and foreigners frequently adjusted their representations of Lhasa’s buildings and geography to convey specific motives or perspectives—a practice that continues today through the use of photo editing tools and filters like Photoshop and photo apps for social media.





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