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New York's Rubin Museum is set to become a 'museum without walls' after transformation

The art museum in New York might be closing down but the artifacts it was housing will become a part of a 'global museum model' soon.

New York's Rubin Museum is set to become a 'museum without walls' after transformation
Cover Image Source: Facebook | Rubin Museum of Arts

When people talk about New York's Rubin Museum of Art, one can not ignore that this museum houses the world's largest and most important collection of Himalayan art and artifacts. However, there is sad news for the admirers as the museum has recently announced that it will shut down in October 2024. After operating for two decades, the museum, which was founded by Shelley and Donald Rubin, will be finally closing its doors to the public, per CNN.


The museum displayed nearly 4000 Himalayan art objects and contributed a lot to make visitors familiar with a particular style of paintings, iconography and religious scriptures. However, the museum has been facing several challenges in recent years, including a reduction in staff members and controversies involving its curated artifacts. The museum recently made a public statement on its website to announce that the museum's building located in the Manhattan area is going up for sale and Rubin is about to become a "museum without walls."


For those curious, the museum will loan out items from its collection and prepare for traveling exhibitions as a part of a new global museum model. "In our new incarnation, we are redefining what a museum can be," the museum's board president, Noah Dorsky, said in a press release. "In recent years, the role of the museum has dramatically evolved. Building and sharing this collection of Himalayan art was one of my family’s great joys. While it has been a privilege to welcome visitors to the Rubin in New York over the last 20 years, our anniversary inspired reflection on how we can achieve the greatest possible impact well into the future," Shelley added.


"The result is the firm belief that a more expansive model will allow us to best serve our mission—not changing 'why' we share Himalayan art with the world, but 'how' we do it," she continued. "Bold change has always been in the Rubin's DNA and we are excited to embrace what our future as a global museum has to offer." The museum will continue researching Himalayan art and focus on creating more videos, podcasts, essays and other educational materials and most of which are rooted in Buddhist traditions.


According to a museum's spokesperson, Rubin went through a restructuring in 2019, reduced their staff and opening and closing hours and was struggling to maintain long-term sustainability. So, the museum authorities had decided to close down its physical presence in Manhattan and it was a decision that was made "from a position of financial strength." "The museum also achieved its highest-ever fundraising numbers in 2022 and 2023," the spokesperson added. The museum's executive director, Jorrit Britschgi, connected with CNN through email and shared his thoughts.

Image Source:  Donald Rubin (L) and Shelley Rubin attend the 2016 Asia Week Celebration at Rubin Museum of Art on March 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)
Image Source: Donald Rubin (L) and Shelley Rubin attend the 2016 Asia Week Celebration at Rubin Museum of Art on March 17, 2016, in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)

"The significant resources required to own and operate a building in New York City will now be focused exclusively on our collection, exhibitions, programs and community of artists. In other words, this new model means more funds spent on sharing art, supporting artists and scholarship and expanding on our flagship programs like Project Himalayan Art," Britschgi added. "In this decentralized model, we will be active in more geographic locations as well as non-traditional spaces, from parks to festivals and fairs. By doing so, we will exponentially expand the audiences we can engage with and inspire through Himalayan art."

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Due to the closure of the museum, about 40% of Rubin's staff is about to lose their positions, per the words of the spokesperson. At the end of the day, Rubin will keep an office in the city where researchers will be allowed to access certain artifacts that are not loaned out and study them. The final exhibition from the Rubin Museum of Art called "Reimagine: Himalayan Art Now" will be hosted soon before its official closure on October 6, 2024. The museum, which also housed a Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room and used to be a visitor's favorite attraction, will be relocated as well.


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