“The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan” opened to the public to much fanfare and excitement on Sept. 19 at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. A pre-opening gala dinner hosted by Donald and Shelley Rubin, founders of the Rubin Museum, included representatives from the Honolulu Academy of Arts, notably Director Stephen Little, President of the Board of Trustees Lynne Johnson, Trustee Indru Watumull and her husband Gulab Watumull, and Director of Development Karen Sumner. Also in attendance were Assistant Curator John Johnston, Advisor Dr. Reda Sobky, Dr. Little’s fiancée Heloisa Oliviera, and former Deputy Director Susan Sayre Batton. The festive occasion included speeches of appreciation by Mr. Rubin and Dr. Little.
Thursday evening the show opened to members and invited guests. The honored Chief Guest of the opening was the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Y. Thinley. The Prime Minister delivered a thoughtful speech that included recognition and appreciation of the work of the Honolulu Academy of Arts staff for bringing “The Dragon’s Gift” into existence. In particular, the Prime Minister thanked the Academy for conservation and training efforts in Bhutan. His Excellency also thanked the Dance team, represented by Core of Culture‘s Joseph Houseal and Gessie Houghton, for their documentation of the sacred Buddhist dances of Bhutan.
On opening night a long line stretched around the block on Seventh Avenue as members and guests anxiously awaited their opportunity to see sacred treasures from Bhutan, which had never before been on view in the mainland United States. Reaction to the exhibition was very positive, with many remarking that the exhibition is a great contribution to the cultural life of New York. “The Dragon’s Gift” opening events coincide with the city-wide Asia Week activities, so many leaders in Asian art from Europe and America were able to attend the opening and view the exhibition.
“The Dragon’s Gift” exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art is a major success and has brought renewed attention to the ground-breaking work taking place at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. It is one of three Academy exhibitions now traveling, along with Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff and Taisho Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia and Deco.
The same group of Cham dancers that performed at the Honolulu Academy of Arts’ opening is in New York City, and have been mesmerizing audiences in public spaces around the metropolis. Here they are at the Brooklyn end of the Brooklyn Bridge.