John Clarke. The New Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum
The newly redisplayed Buddhist art collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum opened to the public on 30 June this year, their closure, three and a half years earlier in the autumn of 2013, having been necessitated by building work to create an adjacent temporary exhibition space. The new scheme represents a major rethink regarding the way in which the museum’s important collections of Buddhist art are shown. For the first time, the display unites the most significant and iconic works of Buddhist sculpture from across Asia, bringing together works previously split between the former Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery of Buddhist Sculpture and the Gallery of South Asian Sculpture (which still contains some Buddhist images). Several formerly unseen pieces are also now exhibited, as are two new monumental works. Both of the latter are the subject of articles in this issue. One is a dharmachakra (or ‘wheel of the Buddhist law’) of the late 7th or early 8th century from the kingdom of Dvaravati, in present-day Thailand; the other, a spectacular circa late 10th or early 11th century stone relief of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in the Potalaka paradise, from today’s Bangladesh.