With a very extraordinary collection of sixty age-old bronze and stone sculptures Kunsthal Rotterdam shows how God is portrayed in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. At the exhibition top pieces from India, Nepal, Cambodia, China, Korea and Thailand illustrate in what way Buddha and Mahariva and their followers have been portrayed through the ages. The collection, belonging to Viktor and Marianne Langen, is in a state that can be called outstanding and the vast majority of pieces can be dated back as far as the eighth and ninth century. The oldest piece that is presented at the exhibition is a Pakistani torso of a bodhisattva from the second century A.D.


Buddha head. Thailand, Dvaravati, 8th century. Stone, height : 28 centimeter. Photo: Saša Fuis, Keulen. Collection: Viktor en Marianne Langen

Divine Art
Together with worshipping several Gods, the belief in reincarnation and salvation belongs to the core of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. These three ancient world religions which have spread from the Indian subcontinent over the whole of East Asia and great parts of the world know a great variety of different Gods. At the exhibition it becomes clear which characteristic gestures, postures and attributes typify each distinct God. Besides all this, extensive attention is paid to the development and customs of these three religions.


Standing buddha as teacher. Thailand, Dvaravati, 8th century. Bronze, height : 48 centimeter. Photo: Saša Fuis, Keulen. Collection: Viktor en Marianne Langen

Religions Portrayed
The way in which the gods have been portrayed in art gives away whether a certain piece belongs to Buddhist, Hindu or Jainist art. Thus, no matter what culture of time period they belong to, Buddhas always have earlobes up to their shoulders, a serene smile, high skull and an urna: a dot or curl on their forehead. Many Thai Buddhas have a little flame on their forehead, symbolizing the eternal fire. Usually Buddha is portrayed sitting down or in lotus position. At the exhibition however, also Buddhas standing upright are on display, amongst which a unique, walking Buddha sculpture from the fifteenth century, belonging to the Thai region Sukhothai. In contrast with Buddhist art, Hindu art is much more energetic and sensual in essence. Shiva, Vishnu and Devi are active gods that help their believers to find the way to salvation. They take on dynamic poses and gestures with their many arms. The Hindu gods wear royal jewelry and wonderful gowns and looking around into the world surrounding them they are somehow much closer to their believers than the introspective Buddha sculptures. At the exhibition three Jainist sculptures from India are also put on display. These sculptures display rigid poses and as a result of their stylistic bodies they come across as cold and distant. This way, they are exemplary for the strict teachings of this religion.


Boddhisatva deep in thought. Korea, Third Empire, 6th century. Bronze, height : 32 centimeter. Photo: Saša Fuis, Keulen. Collection: Viktor en Marianne Langen

Top pieces
The collection of religious sculptures that are presented in a serene setting is highly diverse and contains divine sculptures in stone and bronze which originate from a variety of Asian countries, cultures and time periods. A number of the oldest and rarest pieces at the exhibition is that of the bodhisattva’s, which are enlightened creatures that are obliged to live a good and unselfish life in order to be redeemed from life on earth. An extraordinary example is that of a bodhisattva from the Chinese Sui Dynasty (581-618), which is wearing an excessive, partly painted crown. The bodhisattvas show the believers the way to salvation, just like the Hindu Shiva, Parvati or Ganesha, and set an example as to how to lead good lives.

At Asmuth Druck + Crossmedia a bilingual (German and English) publication has been published with the title: Buddhisten, Jainas, Hindus, Auf der Suche nach dem Gottesbild, ISBN 978-3-940661-00-5.

21 March to 14 June 2009. info + 31 (0) 10 4400301, www.kunsthal.nl Opening hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm, Sundays and public holidays 11am - 5pm