issue 16 summer 01
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Icons of Asia

The Musée Guimet in Paris, which contains perhaps the world's greatest collections of Buddhist art, reopened its doors earlier in 2001 after being closed for renovation for several years. The exhibition space has been remodelled into a series of spacious galleries, lit mainly by natural light. The exhibits are organised by national culture, making it possible to see how religion and art developed across Asia.

The finest collections are those of Khmer and Gandharan pieces, and were gathered earlier in the century by intrepid teams of archeologists. Cambodian Khmer art was gathered from temples such as the celebrated Angkor Wat while Cambodia was a French colony. The Gandharan art, which was unearthed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the product of the Hellenistic civilisation that flourished in the region 2,000 years ago; and Gandharan works express Buddhist themes in sculptural traditions deriving from Greece.

The Guimet is also a centre for scholarship, it has a huge photographic archive, and it houses temporary exhibitions. The first of these explored the art of 'Central Asia from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan' and was displayed at the Guimet in spring 2001 before starting a tour of other European galleries.