Rubin Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art

Exterior seen from 17th Street (February 2011)
Location in New York City
Established October 2, 2004
Location 150 West 17th Street
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates 40°44′24″N 73°59′52″W / 40.7401°N 73.9978°W / 40.7401; -73.9978
Type Art museum, education center, performance and event venue
Collection size 2,000+ objects
Public transit access

M1, M2, M3, M5, M7, M14A, M14D, M20


The Rubin Museum of Art, in New York, is dedicated to the collection, display, and preservation of the art and cultures of the Himalayas, India and neighboring regions, with a permanent collection focused particularly on Tibetan art.[1] It is located at 150 West 17th Street between the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and Seventh Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.[2]


The museum originated from a private collection of Himalayan art which Donald and Shelley Rubin had been assembling since 1974. In 1998, the Rubins paid $22 million for the building that had been occupied by Barneys New York, a designer fashion department store that had filed for bankruptcy.[3] The building was remodeled as a museum by preservation architects Beyer Blinder Belle. The original six-story spiral staircase was left intact to become the center of the 25,000 square feet (2,300 square metres) of exhibition space.

The museum opened in October 2004, and displays more than 1,000 objects including paintings, sculpture, and textiles, as well as ritual objects from the 2nd to the 20th centuries. The new facade on 17th Street and the five floors of galleries were influenced by Tibetan art, and were conceived by New York-based museum architects Celia Imrey and Tim Culbert.[4] Its graphic identity was conceived by graphic designer Milton Glaser.

Besides exhibitions based on the museum's permanent collection, it also serves as a venue for national and international traveling exhibitions. The museum is affiliated with the Himalayan Art website to advance the study of Himalayan arts and culture.[5]


The museum's exhibitions and programs are supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Music Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, other corporate and foundation donors, and a roster of corporate and individual members.[6]

In 2011, the museum announced that founders Donald and Shelley Rubin would give a five-year, $25 million gift to support operations, exhibitions, and programs. Donald Rubin also planned to step down as chief executive, although the couple were to continue to lead the museum's board.[7]


The 70,000-square-foot museum occupies what was formerly a portion of the Barneys department store in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. It was acquired in 1998 and renovated extensively from 2000-2004. The renovation and new design elements were the results of a collaboration headed by the architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle and including Atelier Imrey Culbert (associate museum designers) and Milton Glaser Incorporated. Many of the most important details within the building have been retained from its previous life, most notably Andree Putman's steel-and-marble staircase that spirals dramatically through the seven-story gallery tower. In addition to spacious yet intimate galleries for featured exhibitions, the museum includes space for contemporary and historical photography, an art-making studio, a state-of-the-art theater for multimedia events and performances, a café, and a gift shop. In September 2011, the museum opened a new 5,000 square-foot Education Center adjacent to the main museum building. The new space provides greatly expanded spaces to better facilitate lifelong learning and serve more visitors in deeper, more substantial ways. The Education Center was designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership.[8]

The second-floor gallery with objects from the permanent collection


Among the museum's inaugural exhibitions were "Methods of Transcendance" and "Portraits of Transmission" (both October 2004-January 2005) and "The Demonic Divine in Himalayan Art" (October 2004-March 2006).[9][10] In 2006, a three-part exhibition called "Holy Madness" spotlighted siddhas with "Portraits of Tantric Siddhas," "Mahasiddhas at Gyantse," and "Mahasiddhas at Alchi." Not limited in its focus to Buddhist and Hindu religious objects, "I See No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion" (September 2006-January 2007), "Bon: The Magic Word" (November 2007-February 2008), and "Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection" (September 2009-February 2010) exhibited works related to each of those faiths.

In 2010, the "Gateway to Himalayan Art" exhibition opened on the museum's second floor. Presenting the fundamentals of Himalayan art, it explains the symbolism, iconography, and ritual implements in the artworks as well as the materials from which they are made.[11] The exhibit was to remain on view until 2014, with yearly rotations of specific objects. A two-year exhibit on the third floor, "Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection" (March 2011-January 2013), highlights the stylistic diversity of the museum's holdings and the connections between Himalayan and neighboring artistic traditions.[12]


The Rubin Museum offers an array of on- and off-site educational programs, as well as public programs such as talks and discussions; film screenings; live music, dance, poetry and other performances; and art demonstrations. The museum continues to refine a museum-wide access program in order to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities and special needs, language challenges, and at-risk and underserved segments of the population. A visit to the Rubin Museum is enhanced by the presence of guides in the galleries, American Sign Language tours, verbal imaging and touch tours, and a wheelchair-accessible facility. Assistive listening devices and wheelchairs are also provided.[8]

Cinema programming

U.S. film premieres
Film Premier Date Film Maker
The Yatra Trilogy[13] 10/28/2004 John Bush
The Reindeer People[14] 04/28/2005 Hamid Sardar
Taiji: Chaotic Harmony 06/14/06 Sat Chuen Hon
The Gold Bracelet 09/22/2006 Kavi Raz
Kiran over Mongolia[15] 04/11/2007 Joseph Spaid
Gobi Women’s Song[14] 11/04/2006 Sas Carey
Samsara 12/19/2007 Pan Nalin
Yangsi[16] 12/08/2012 Mark Elliott

World film premieres
Film Premier Date Film Maker
The Sound of Insects 12/22/2009 Peter Liechti
Four Rivers 10/10/10 Chu-Bzhi
Crazy Wisdom 11/2011 Johanna Demetrakas
Prince of the Himalayas 12/2011 Sherwood Hu
Caris’ Peace 03/07/2012 Gaylen Ross & Rebecca Nelson
Alive Inside[17] 04/18/2012 Michel Rossato-Bennett

See also


  1. "About" on the Rubin Museum of Art website
  2. Kanter, Evelyn (2010). Peaceful Places: New York City: 129 Tranquil Sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Birmingham, AL: Menasha Ridge Press. p. 183. ISBN 9780897327206.
  3. Barbanel, Josh (2004-05-02). "POSTINGS: Himalayan Artworks at 17th and Seventh; A Former Barneys To House a Museum - New York Times". Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  4. Imrey and Culbert website
  5. Himalayan Art website.
  6. "The Rubin Museum of Art: The First Five Years" (PDF). New York: Rubin Museum of Art. 2010.
  7. Kennedy, Randy (October 20, 2011). "Rubin Museum Will Get $25 Million and a New Chief Executive". Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  8. 1 2 "Rubin Museum of Art website". Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  9. Rubin Museum of Art: The First Five Years (PDF). New York: Rubin Museum of Art. 2010. p. 82.
  10. Linrothe, Robert N.; Rhie, Marilyn M. (2004). Demonic Divine: Himalayan Art and Beyond. New York and Chicago: Rubin Museum of Art and Serindia Publications. p. 321. ISBN 1932476083.
  11. Karlins, N. F. (September 14, 2010). "Gateway to the Himalayas". Retrieved May 23, 2012.
  12. "Rubin Museum of Art: Exhibitions". Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  13. Bush, John. "Biography". Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  14. 1 2 "Mongolian Culture - Events". Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  15. "Kiran Over Mongolia Home Page". Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  16. "Yangsi Screenings".
  17. "Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2012-09-05.

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