Travelers who need a break from the bustle and stresses of New York can escape to the Rubin, a serene, contemplative museum of art from the Himalayas. Secular in origin—the museum was founded by an American millionaire and his wife who fell in love with the art of this region—its effect is nonetheless tremendously spiritual, as the paintings, drawings, sculptures, and artifacts shown are all religious items, many used by traveling monks to teach Buddhism or to help worshippers deepen their meditation (that’s why so many of the works are done on fabric—they’re meant to be rolled up and carried). Many tell the stories of the various Buddhas, portraying meditating men with halos, snarling demons, teachers, and commoners in the deepest blues, ruby reds, emerald greens, and dazzling golds. For sheer beauty, the 1,500 works housed in this museum are hard to top.
Set on the site of the former Barney’s Department Store (the Rubins chose it because the central circular stairway looked like a “mandala,” a never-ending circle surrounded by a square, which is the Tantric Buddhist diagram of the cosmos), the museum also hosts an impressive array of lectures, performances, film screenings, and more. Its children’s and teen programs are particularly well done.