Across the Asian world, people reach out to the sacred realm to harness protection, blessings, and good fortune for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
Powerful, divine beings reside in a sacred realm, potentially bringing great fortune or great harm to people in the physical world. They are approached with immense respect for the powers they hold.
Almost universally, yet through varied means and belief systems, people have found ways to connect with these powers to bring stability to their lives; to bring love and fertility, prosperity and security, good
health and longevity, and to divert ill-will and harm.
Focusing on our own collection of Asian folk art, we present examples of these ideas from across the Asian continent, a vast and culturally diverse region.
Explore and contemplate differences and commonalities in the use of amulets, prayer, and ritual performance as an expression of this common human desire to achieve balance and harmony in the physical and spiritual realms of life.
This exhibition is based on the museum’s own Asian collection. The strength of this collection includes objects with otherworldly, divine power. Highlighted in this gallery are objects related to ways people interact with the sacred realm to seek and attain blessings and good fortune for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
While Sacred Realm offers a wide-ranging representation of Asian folk art, it is not representative of all Asian cultures or religious practices. This may be due to the limitations of the size of the gallery, to gaps in the museum’s Asian collection, or to curatorial interpretation.
Does this exhibition present examples of aesthetic mastery? Sacred images? Cultural objects? The answer might be different for each visitor and all things at once.
Many of the objects are sacred: they contain consecrated text or materials; were used in sacred rituals; or were inhabited by deities. While some objects were deconsecrated in a special ceremony, others were purchased new and never sanctified. However, we do not know the detailed histories of all collections items.
In a museum exhibition, objects are removed from their original cultural settings. Limited by space, conservation, and other factors, sacred items are “re‑contextualized” for public audiences. They are not displayed in the way they would be in their intended context. Still, these objects may retain power and certainly they retain meaning to
In consultation with local and international artists, scholars, devotees, spiritual masters, and religious leaders, we attempt to present these thoughtfully made works in a space where the public can marvel at objects’ artistic beauty, learn about and share sacred traditions and experiences, and explore cultural differences and commonalities.