Displaying the Dharma, Buddhist "Art" and the Modern Museum
October 16, 2021
This talk by Pamela D. Winfield examined the tensions and tactics involved in exhibiting Buddhist visual culture in modern museum spaces. It first critically examined the ideological divide between sacred and secular that reduced powerful Buddhist icons into aesthetic objects within 19th century Euro-American collections of Asian “art.” However, it then also examined how Japanese Buddhist temples in particular persevered through periods of persecution, preservation, and paradox, as they ultimately installed temple “treasure halls” (hōmotsukan) that replicated the very kinds of western-style museums that had pillaged their temple treasures a century and a half previously. If the 19th century transferred the temple out to the museum, then the 20th century transferred the museum back into the temple grounds. The result is that both American and Japanese museums need to be understood as hybrid spaces, where the supposed boundaries between sacred and secular are porous and continually negotiated by diverse audiences.
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (120 College Street)