NEW YORK: A long-delayed exhibition of nearly 70 pieces of Buddhist art from Pakistan will finally open at Asia Society in New York on August 9. Melissa Chiu, the director of Asia Society Museum, told The New York Times in Islamabad that anti-Americanism in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden had put the show in jeopardy. The death of a major advocate, Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s senior diplomat for Pakistan and a former chairman of Asia Society, also complicated matters, as did problems with getting American visas for the Pakistanis chosen to accompany the objects to New York.When contacted, a spokesman of the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations, Mian Jehangir Iqbal, said that Ambassador Abdullah Haroon made a “significant contribution” in facilitating the holding of the exhibition. “He (Ambassador Haroon) really worked hard on this,” he said.In her interview with the Times, Ms. Chiu said the obstacles became so intense that at times the exhibition, devoted to the splendors of the ancient Buddhist civilization of Gandhara that flourished in northern Pakistan 2,000 years ago, almost foundered.
She said her argument to Pakistani authorities – that showing the antiquities in New York could help counterbalance the image of Pakistan as the world’s most dangerous place – was a tough sell.The exhibition was of particular importance, Ms. Chiu said, because Asia Society views its role as reaching beyond the display of art to encourage a broader understanding of Asian cultures. Moreover the sculpture, architectural reliefs and works of gold and bronze in the show, which were produced from the third century B.C. to the fifth century A.D., are poorly represented in American museums. The last exhibition devoted to Gandhara art in the United States was at Asia Society in 1960. – APP