NEW YORK—A selection of Bhutanese Buddhist art never before seen in the continental United States opened at the Rubin Museum of Art on west 17th St. on Friday, Sept. 19.

Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist country and the only country to measure Gross National Happiness. In 2006, Business Week ranked Bhutan the happiest country in Asia.

The tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan is one of the most isolated countries on Earth, having been spared colonization, invasion, and war.

“This exhibition is therefore a rare opportunity to explore an entire ethos untouched by the modern world,” said Martin Brauen, Rubin’s chief curator.

The exhibit, The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, features hanging thangka tapestries and intricate statues of Buddhas, Boddhisattvas, and ferocious protector deities. Many pieces date back to the 16th century, when the Drugpa sect of Buddhism taught by Drugpa Kunleg became increasingly popular. The original founder of Buddhism, Buddha Shakyamuni, is not short of representation in the collection, either.

The collection was released by the Royal Government of Bhutan and prepared by the Honolulu Academy of the Arts, where it was on display before coming to New York. The exhibit will remain on view at the Rubin until January 5, 2009.

Monks blessed the objects in the new exhibition on Wed. Sept. 17 in a ritual chanting of scriptures followed by the pouring of water before the idols.

From Sept. 13 to 21, dancers wearing painted wooden masks with bulging eyes and a crown of skulls representing protector deities will perform chaam, a sacred ritual dance. The performances will take place in several public parks in the city.

Other events related to the exhibit include films, talks and crafts demonstrations. For full exhibition and activities schedule, please visit rmanyc.org/Bhutan.

By Christine Lin

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