The Rubin Museum in New York closes its spaces

The Rubin Museum of Art announced on Wednesday January 31 its decision to close its Manhattan building next October, almost twenty years after its inauguration. The museum intends to continue, by developing partnerships and exhibitions.

Purchased in 1998 by Donald and Shelley Rubin, the 6,500 m² building will therefore be sold and the profits paid to the museum’s support fund. This closure will result in a reduction of around 40% in the museum’s workforce, with the team currently made up of sixty people. Jorrit Britschgi, the museum’s director, had already cut more than twenty positions in 2019 due to a difficult economic situation. In recent years, the museum has been faced with a drop in the number of visitors and, above all, with several accusations of possessing looted relics.

According to Jorrit Britschgi, “continuing to rely on traditional revenue streams like ticket sales and venue rentals was simply no longer viable.” Classically, he insists that this closure is not a sign of failure but of renewal: “in our new incarnation, we are redefining what a museum can be”. For Noah Dorksy, the president of the museum’s board of directors, this change in “museum without walls” will allow “to reach much larger and more diverse audiences, to galvanize creativity and to champion new modes of engagement”.

Some researchers are concerned about the impact that this closure could have on provenance research undertaken by the museum, although the director assures that the restitution of works of art of questionable origin will not be affected.

Erin Thompson, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, believes that the museum’s charitable status could be called into question if the public no longer has regular access to the collection. For Jorrit Britschgi, this concern is unnecessary: “we continue to be a museum. We will no longer operate our own space but the collection is at the heart of our efforts”.

Opened to the public in 2004, the Rubin Museum’s collection is largely composed of Buddhist works from the Tibetan plateau. It includes nearly 4,000 Himalayan works of art, including paintings, sculptures, textiles and cult objects dating from the 2nd century BC. JC. nowadays. The museum is also famous for its Tibetan Buddhist shrine room (inspired by a traditional shrine). It also hosted numerous temporary exhibitions, which gave pride of place to contemporary artists inspired by Asian cultures and traditions.

Before its final closure, the building will host the exhibition “Reimagine: Himalayan Art Now” from March 15 to October 6, 2024, which will present the works of thirty-two contemporary artists from Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan as well as several international artists inspired by Himalayan art.

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