Asia Society Museum presents an exhibition featuring more than fifty stunningly beautiful paintings collected by Italian scholar Giuseppe Tucci during his 1926–1948 expeditions to Tibet, along with striking photographs depicting his travels. Artworks span the thirteenth through nineteenth centuries, and are on loan from the Museum of Civilisation‐Museum of Oriental Art “Giuseppe Tucci,” Rome. The exhibition marks the first time they are on view in the United States.
One of the first Westerners to travel to the Tibetan plateau, Tucci led eight expeditions in search of remote monasteries and sacred sites. His extensive knowledge of Tibetan history and religion, and his mastery of Asian languages, including Tibetan and Pali—the language of earliest Buddhist literature—informed his acquisition of these historically significant artworks. Paintings in the exhibition come from eastern, western, and central Tibet, and show a range of styles and subjects.
The majority of the paintings in the exhibition are religious paintings, intended to aid Buddhist practitioners on their path to enlightenment. Recent conservation of the paintings, many of which had been obscured by exposure to blackening soot and grease in their original temple and monastery settings, has restored much of their original luminescent beauty, sumptuous colors, and gold embellishments. Viewers may easily imagine how these paintings were used as meditational aids by the devoted, who would have been awed by their physical brilliance and spiritual subjects.
The exhibition is the result of thirty years of research and has been organized by Dr. Adriana Proser, Asia Society’s John H. Foster Senior Curator for Traditional Asian Art, and guest curator Dr. Deborah Klimburg‐Salter, University Professor Emeritus, CIRDIS, Institute for Art History, University of Vienna and Associate, Department of South Asian Studies, Harvard University. A beautifully illustrated book, Discovering Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Tibetan Paintings, published in 2016 to accompany the Italian presentation of the works, is available through AsiaStore.
Major support for this exhibition is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, John and Fausta Eskenazi, Lisina M. Hoch, and an anonymous donor.
Generous support is provided by Misook Doolittle in honor of Chae Ok Rollison, and Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky.
Additional support is provided by the Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation, the Blakemore Foundation, Carlton Rochell, and Trace Foundation.
Asia Society appreciates the support of Susan L. Beningson and Steve Arons.