Fifty Gandhara civilisation artefacts from the Lahore Museum’s collection have received a tremendous response from media and visitors to the New Asia Society Museum in New York in the United States.
Elaine Merguerian, director of communications at the New Asia Society Museum, said via email that the exhibition “has received much enthusiastic attention from the media and many, many visitors who are interested in Pakistan, Buddhist heritage and the story behind the exhibition.”
She added that the exhibition was “probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these great works of art from Pakistan in the United States.”
Lahore Museum director Humaira Alam said museums in South Korea, Japan and Sri Lanka had repeatedly asked the Lahore Museum for artefacts. “They are not sent until we are assured about the timely return of the artefacts and their security,” she said.
The collection was also displayed in Germany, France and Switzerland between 2008 and 2010. The artefacts were also part of an exhibition in Japan in 1999.
It was not clear when or if the pieces that have been winning rave reviews in NewYork were last on display at the Lahore Museum, since museum officials made conflicting statements.
A museum officer said on the condition of anonymity that most of the artefacts that were in New York had been in the reserves. “The collection was away for exhibit in Europe the last three years. We never got the time to display it here, since it just arrived back and then got sent away to New York.”
But Alam, the museum director, said the artefacts were from among those on permanent display at the Gandharan Art Gallery at the Lahore Museum. “Only a few pieces were selected to be sent from the reserves,” she added.
Some 300 artefacts of Gandhara art are on display and some 1,500 lie in the reserves at the gallery. Alam said the best items were on display. “Rotating artefacts in reserve with ones on display is avoided. Only the very best ones go on display. An item from storage is displayed only if the displayed items are away for an exhibition,” she said.
However, another museum officer said that there was only one reason why the artefacts were not rotated: laziness. “That would require a lot of research, writing, re-writing, edits and re-edits to prepare the labels for the artefacts,” said the officer. “Most curators and gallery in-charges here try to avoid such work.”
Sixteen artefacts from the National Museum in Karachi have also been sent for the exhibition, titled The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara, which opened on August 9 and runs till October 30. Fourteen of the 50 pieces of Gandhara art sent by the Lahore Museum are mentioned on the website of the Asia Society museum.
The exhibit is separated into three sections: “Classical Connections”, which shows the influence of Greco-Roman culture on the area’s artwork; “Narratives and Architectural Context”, which shows scenes from Buddha’s life, and “Buddhas and Bodhisattvas”, which depicts the multi-faceted nature of the religious figure as he was represented in this region.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.
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