The Shanghai Museum is hosting its largest ever exhibition of Buddhist art from India. It’s working with the Kolkata National Museum to put on a show that illustrates the life of Siddharta Gautama through 91 sculptures and paintings.
The exhibition presents a visual journey through several schools of Indian Buddhist Art from the Gandhara to the Gupta. The earliest exhibit on display is from the 2nd Century BC, when the Buddha was depicted symbolically as a chakra, an empty throne, a Bodhi tree, or a pair of footprints.
“At that point of time, he is represented symbolically only,” director of India’s Ministry of Culture Deepak Ashish Kaul said. “And after some 200 or 300 years after that, say, first century AD onwards, then the human, he was started to be represented in human forms in different schools of art.”
This Standing Buddha from the 5th century is one of the highlights of the show. Even though part of the halo behind the buddha was destroyed, it’s regarded as one of the masterpieces from the golden era of Indian art and culture. The director of Shanghai Museum says buddhist art played a role in the development of other art forms.
“Talking about fresco paintings, the relief sculptures in architecture, many of them are connected with buddhism,” Shanghai Museum’s director Chen Xiejun said. “And Buddhism also has a profound impact on philosophical ideas. It’s the first time that we’re introducing a Buddhist art show directly from India. That’s why we say it’s different.”
The exhibition runs through February 3rd. Admission is free. The show will then move on to Japan and Singapore.