The Buddha Up Close

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Buddhist art from the Museum Rietberg Zurich and the National Gallery Prague

Who was Buddha Shakyamuni? What do his teachings offer? And how did Buddhism make its way from the Indian subcontinent to southeast Asia, China, Tibet, Japan, and finally to Europe? The exhibition will offer visitors an interactive experience to learn through as well as an aesthetic and visual one. The history of Buddhist art since its beginnings will be presented for the first time in the Czech Republic in an exhibition organized by the National Gallery Prague and the Museum Rietberg Zurich. It will be the first opportunity to see masterpieces of Buddhist art created between the second and twentieth centuries from the collections of the Museum Rietberg Zurich and the National Gallery Prague. In addition to the major works of art that will be on show the exhibition will also employ multimedia features to guide visitors through different thematic chapters of this subject and introduce them to the origins and spread of Buddhism in the cultures of Asia and to the symbolic meanings of Buddhist art.

The introductory chapter will highlight the variety with which the founder of Buddhism was depicted by artists in the areas to which his teachings had spread. It will be followed by works that take as their subject legends from the Buddha’s life—from the miraculous circumstances surrounding his birth to entering nirvana. The section devoted to the teachings of Buddhism will present its two main schools, Theravada and Mahayana, as well as the arhats as the first purveyors of the Buddha’s teachings, and the Buddha and the bodhisattvas—figures of the rich pantheon of Mahayana Buddhism. The chapter devoted to the spreading of Buddhism across Asia will contain portraits of monks, written and printed Buddhist texts, a sound installation of recited prayers, as well as models of stupas designed to preserve relics. The exhibition will introduce echoes of Buddhism in Czech lands from the end of the nineteenth century to the present, including the interest in Buddhist art collecting.

This international exhibition is organized by the National Gallery Prague and the Museum Rietberg Zurich.

Chief curators: Markéta Hánová, Johannes Beltz
Curators: Zdenka Klimtová, Michaela Pejčochová, Jana Ryndová, Lenka Gyaltso
Curators Museum Rietberg Zürich: Anna Hagdorn, Khanh Trinh, Alexandra von Przychowski


Markéta Hánová, Ph.D.
Director of the Collection of Asian Art
PhDr. Zdenka Klimtová
Curator of the Collection of Asian Art
Michaela Pejčochová, Ph.D.
Curator of the Collection of Asian Art
Jana Ryndová, Ph.D.
Curator of the Collection of Asian Art

Event partners

Rietberg Museum Zürich
The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation
Radio 1