The Art of Kashmir

Holland Cotter in the NYT:


Beginning in the late 1980s hellish sectarian violence between the Indian army and Kashmiri separatists, Hindus and Muslims, swept through the valley, scorching its beauties and sealing it off from the rest of the world. Few travelers came; some who did lost their lives. This story was not new. These storms regathered many times over the centuries.

“The Arts of Kashmir” at Asia Society adds to these two perspectives a third: a land in creative tumult. Set amid Afghanistan, China and India, the region underwent constant cultural fermentation, taking influences in, sending them out. Sacred to Hinduism, home to early Buddhism and a favored retreat of Muslim rulers, it was forever either struggling to sustain social balance or heading into conflict. And this perpetual play of opposites produced, through molding or friction, some of the most beautiful art in the world.

Despite that beauty, art from Kashmir remains relatively unfamiliar here, and the Asia Society show, assembled by the art historian Pratapaditya Pal, is the first full-scale New York survey. Why the wait? Mistaken identity has been one reason. Kashmiri metal sculptures and paintings often arrived in the West with salvaged monastic holdings from Tibet, and were assumed to be Tibetan.