“Tibet, The Sacred Realm: Photographs 1880–1950”

Rice Museum

This impressive photographic exhibition was directed by Michael E. Hoffman and coordinated by Martha Chahroudi for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it first opened. I saw it beautifully installed here; it will open at the Asia Society in New York on March 1. It is a major exhibition in several ways: as ethnological documentation of a high culture, with roots in antiquity, which, eerily, ended in our own time; as material providing insight into the history of religion, laying bare its processes of diffusion, selection, and recombination; as exquisite pure photography of landscape, portrait, and street.

The cultural situation that the exhibition both arises from and participates in is complex. In the early centuries A.D., Tibet was a primitive culture in the arc of nomadic herding cultures extending from Africa to Siberia, and had closest affinities with Central Asian groups. Yet, possibly

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