The Rubin Museum of Art is dedicated to the collection, display, and preservation of the art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions, especially Tibetan art. It is located at 150 West 17th Street between the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and Seventh Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.
The 70,000-square-foot museum occupies what was formerly a portion of the Barneys department store in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. It was acquired in 1998 and renovated extensively from 2000-2004. The renovation and new design elements were the results of a collaboration headed by the architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle and including Atelier Imrey Culbert (associate museum designers) and Milton Glaser Incorporated. Many of the most important details within the building have been retained from its previous life, most notably Andree Putman's steel-and-marble staircase that spirals dramatically through the seven-story gallery tower.
In addition to spacious yet intimate galleries for featured exhibitions, the museum includes space for contemporary and historical photography, an art-making studio, a state-of-the-art theater for multimedia events and performances, a café, and a gift shop. In September 2011, the museum opened a new 5,000 square-foot Education Center adjacent to the main museum building. The new space provides greatly expanded spaces to better facilitate lifelong learning and serve more visitors in deeper, more substantial ways. The Education Center was designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership.
Among the museum's inaugural exhibitions were "Methods of Transcendance" and "Portraits of Transmission" (both October 2004-January 2005) and "The Demonic Divine in Himalayan Art" (October 2004-March 2006). In 2006, a three-part exhibition called "Holy Madness" spotlighted siddhas with "Portraits of Tantric Siddhas," "Mahasiddhas at Gyantse," and "Mahasiddhas at Alchi." Not limited in its focus to Buddhist and Hindu religious objects, "I See No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion" (September 2006-January 2007), "Bon: The Magic Word" (November 2007-February 2008), and "Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection" (September 2009-February 2010) exhibited works related to each of those faiths.
In 2010, the "Gateway to Himalayan Art" exhibition opened on the museum's second floor. Presenting the fundamentals of Himalayan art, it explains the symbolism, iconography, and ritual implements in the artworks as well as the materials from which they are made. The exhibit was to remain on view until 2014, with yearly rotations of specific objects. A two-year exhibit on the third floor, "Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection" (March 2011-January 2013), highlights the stylistic diversity of the museum's holdings and the connections between Himalayan and neighboring artistic traditions.
The Rubin Museum offers an array of on- and off-site educational programs, as well as public programs such as talks and discussions; film screenings; live music, dance, poetry and other performances; and art demonstrations. The museum continues to refine a museum-wide access program in order to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities and special needs, language challenges, and at-risk and underserved segments of the population. A visit to the Rubin Museum is enhanced by the presence of guides in the galleries, American Sign Language tours, verbal imaging and touch tours, and a wheelchair-accessible facility. Assistive listening devices and wheelchairs are also provided.