Why You Should Visit the Rubin Museum of Art

While you’re exploring the galleries in Chelsea, take time to relax at the Rubin Museum of Art, a uniquely meditative look at the art of the Himalayan region. At the Rubin, you’ll walk a spiral staircase to a wondrous six floors of galleries housed in the former site of the department store Barneys. Opened in 2004, this museum is meant to inspire and open your mind rather than strictly educate. Find out more about the Rubin below, and see what you’re missing!

The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC: Permanent Collection

Masterworks of Himalayan Art Rubin Museum

The Rubin’s emphasis on Himalayan art means that the regions of focus include the countries Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Mongolia. The permanent collection is comprised of three exhibitions: Gateway to Himalayan Art, Masterworks of Himalayan Art, and Sacred Spaces. There are 3500 works in the permanent collection, with pieces dating to 1500 years in the past. Gateway introduces visitors to the wide array of Himalayan art. You’ll see examples of the Tibetan hanging scroll painting (thangka) and the prayer wheel used in Buddhist ritual, as well as sculptures and paintings.

Masterworks of Himalayan Art delves further into the rich history of the region’s culture. This rotating showcase of the Rubin’s permanent collection walks you through the art by region. You’ll see a 12th-century mandala shaped like a lotus blossom, with petals that open to show an exquisite design, as well as a Bhutanese mask of Padmasambhava, a frightening and fascinating artifact.

Sacred Spaces

Perhaps the most special of the permanent collection is featured in Sacred Spaces. The pieces in Sacred Spaces consider religious devotion and its many forms. One favorite space is the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, a meditative space full of religious artifacts and prized for its invitation to quiet reflection in the middle of a hectic city. The other galleries in Sacred Spaces rotate seasonally; right now, they are themed according to the religious pilgrimage and called The Road To…

Exhibition tours through the galleries are offered daily at 1pm and 3pm.

The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC: Special Exhibitions

In the Rubin’s other galleries you’ll find enlightening exhibitions exploring past, present, and future. In fact, the Rubin’s overall theme for 2018 is “The Future.” On now is the exhibition A Lost Future, a unique multimedia presentation including virtual reality, painting, film, sculpture, and photography tied to the Bengal region. Artists Shezad Dawood, the Otolith Group, and Matti Braun consider novel takes on the future based on the current state of the Bengal region. This exhibition also includes the film O Horizon, a documentary film about a Nobel laureate-founded school in Bengal called Visva Bharati. Screenings occur daily, so be sure to catch one when you visit A Lost Future!

Another irresistible exhibition is A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful, on view until January 7, 2019. Created by artist Candy Chang and writer James A. Reeves, this wall is divided into anxieties and hopes. Visitors are invited to write their own fears and hopes on cards and place them on the appropriate wall (the red half is for fears; the blue for hopes). This interactive exhibit is inspired by Tibetan prayer flags, traditional religious cloths inscribed with Buddhist sutras.

The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC: Films, Talks, & Other Events

Rubin Museum Family Sundays

Mark Sundays on the calendar to bring your kids to the Rubin. Family Sundays are days of interactive fun, crafts, and tours to invite your child into the rich history of art and Himalayan tradition. Guardians are invited to bring children ages 3 and up from 1 to 4pm every Sunday.

Other events such as film screenings and talks happen throughout the year at the Rubin. In concert with the museum’s exploration of the future, their Future Fellow Karenna Gore has curated a series of talks exploring “ecological intimacy” and the difficult imperatives of environmental ethics. Upcoming talks include teasingly interesting topics like “Minimalism is Good Karma” and “Do Rivers Have Thoughts?” These talks will occur through the end of the year.

The Birds Alfred Hitchcock

The Rubin’s special film series is called Cabaret Cinema: Where Movies and Martinis Mix. Many of the upcoming films are based on the 12 signs of the zodiac, including The Dead Zone and Sans Soleil. Other films in this series will explore the science-fiction-inspired themes also presented in A Lost Future. These early sci-fi films will include Alfred Hitchcock’s chilling The Birds and the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.

The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC: Cafe Serai & K2 Lounge

Like the museum itself, Cafe Serai inside the Rubin is a pleasant and peaceful place. During the day, come enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry. On Friday nights, Cafe Serai transforms into K2 Lounge (named for the famous peak of Mount Kilimanjaro). Enjoy happy hour from 6 to 7pm, with two-for-one beer, wine, and cocktails. A DJ will play music for all, and you can enjoy a bao bun and other pan-Asian cuisine from the kitchen. Admission to K2 is free!

The Rubin Museum is located at 150 W. 17th St. Call 212-620-5000 or visit for more details.

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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