Rutgers-Newark Professor's Exhibition Casts Buddhist Sculpture in Provocative New Light

Rutgers-Newark Online, November 20, 2007

Newark, N.J. (USA) -- Rutgers Professor Annette Juliano wanted her exhibition of Buddhist sculptures at the China Institute to change the dialogue about Buddhist art, and judging from critical reaction, she has succeeded.

Buddhist Sculpture from China: Selections from the Xi'an Beilin Museum has been hailed by The New York Times as a superlative exhibition of some 70 pieces ranging from the 5th through 9th Century, many never before seen outside China, at the China Institute Gallery through Dec. 9.

Many of the images challenge our aesthetic expectations and our scholarly need to explain, classify and make familiar, stated Times critic Holland Cotter in a Nov. 2 review.

The pieces, all on loan from China's Xi'an Beilin Museum, include stone sculptures, gilt bronze and clay votive objects and stelae (stone slabs used as grave or territorial markers). I wanted to broaden the awareness of the wide range of Buddhist sculpture,  says Juliano, an expert on Asian art and a professor in the visual and performing arts department at Rutgers University in Newark.

As a result, in addition to the images in this exhibition made for the court or wealthy aristocratic families, which are usually displayed in Buddhist art exhibitions, many of the pieces she selected were made for private homes or small shrines, and are modest but beautiful. Some indicate that their artists Buddhist beliefs were influenced by local cults; still others were found buried in pits, stored there in an attempt to preserve them during religious persecutions of the Buddhists by the Chinese.

Juliano, who first proposed the show a decade ago, spent some four years selecting the pieces during numerous trips to the Xi'an Beilin Museum. She was given access to storage areas that revealed pieces never before exhibited. Juliano also wrote the 154-page, fully illustrated catalogue for the exhibition, including photographs that show both the fronts and backs of many of the pieces.

The China Institute is at 125 East 65th St., New York; for gallery hours and admission information, go to