ANGELES The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center has put together
a remarkable exhibition of Buddhist cave temple art.
CAVE TEMPLES OF DUNHUANG: BUDDHIST ART ON CHINAS SILK ROAD
celebrates more than 25 years of collaboration between the Getty Conservation
Institute and the Dunhuang Academy in northwest China (bordering the Gobi
Desert). The latter organization sent dozens of artists and technicians
to the Getty to help construct three replica caves which were then decorated
with exquisite sculptures and wall paintings dating from the 4th to the
14th centuries. To step into these full-sized caves is to be transported
back in time to when the Silk Road, the main trade route linking East and
West, teemed with traders, merchants, workers, camels, government officials
and artists of various nationalities and religions.
religion in that part of China was, of course, Buddhism. Which is why
each of the five hundred caves of Mogao had a Buddhist motif. Carved out
of sandstone hillsides, the caves offered spiritual as well as physical
sustenance: not only could one escape the blazing heat here, but meditate,
pray and be edified as well.
In Cave 275 stands an immense sculpture of Maitreya Buddha, flanked by
two lions. His beaded jewelry, folded garments and textile patterns reflect
Dunhuangs connection to Central Asia. On the right wall panel is
a pictorial story of King Moonlight, who was so virtuous and generous
he gave away his own head! On the upper part of the left and right walls
are carved niches which resemble Chinese gateways with tiled roofs and
Cave 285 is a replica of the earliest dated cave at Mogao. On the right
wall are two inscriptions dating its creation to 538-539 CE. On either
side of the inscription are rows of patrons who, as a group, subsidized
the cave and its decoration. On either side of the central Buddha is a
sculpture of a meditating monk. The Hindu god Shiva, a black figure holding
aloft the sun and moon, is to the right of Buddha. Chinese mythological
beings dance and prance across the pyramidal ceiling.
Cave 320 exemplifies the artistic brilliance of the High Tang period (705-781
CE). The left and right walls depict Pure Lands, blissful paradises where
devotees sought to be reborn. The pyramidal ceiling has a hand-painted
peony design surrounded by colorful tent hangings and, on the four slopes,
a multitude of Buddhas.
temples of Dunhuang are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to the Getty,
we dont have to journey to the Gobi Desert to visit them.
The other Fall exhibits at Getty Center include: UNRULY NATURE, THE LANDSCAPES
OF THEODORE ROUSSEAU; LONDON CALLING: BACON, FREUD, KOSSOFF, ANDREWS,
AUERBACK AND KITAJ; THINGS UNSEEN: VISION, BELIEF, AND EXPERIENCE IN ILLUMINATED
MANUSCRIPTS; DRAWING: THE ART OF CHANGE and THE ART OF ALCHEMY.
Call 310-440-7300 or visit getty.edu
for information and tickets. The TTY line for the hearing impaired is
310-440-7305. The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive.