Transmitting the Forms of Divinity:
Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan
Conceived and directed by Alexandra Munroe
Co-organized by Japan Society and the Korea Society, New York; Gyeongju National Museum, South Korea, and Nara National Museum, Japan; and the Japan Foundation and the Korea Foundation
New York, Japan Society Gallery, 2003
“At distant intervals, an art show reveals works never seen together before that radically modify our perception of a major period in the history of great cultures. Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art From Korea and Japan, at the Japan Society Gallery until June 22, is one of those turning points. The event engineered with miraculous diplomatic skills by Alexandra Munroe, director of the Japan Society, would have been unthinkable two decades ago.”
— Souren Melikian, International Herald Tribune
“Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan at the Japan Society was perfection: ideally scaled, art historically innovative, with some of the most beautiful sculptures on earth, most of them just a few inches high.”
— #1 pick, “The Art and Artists of the Year (2003),” Holland Cotter, New York Times
The first major international exhibition devoted to a comparative examination of Korean and Japanese Buddhist art, Transmitting the Forms of Divinity explored the formative links between the ancient cultures of Korea and Japan and the early development of Buddhist art in each nation. The exhibition examined the important early relationship between Korea and Japan, from the origins of Korean Buddhist art and its transmission to Japan in the sixth century, to the creation of independent styles and modes of expression in each nation by the ninth century. Several national treasures and masterworks of the sixth through ninth centuries rarely (if ever) seen in the West were included among an unprecedented selection of sculptures in gilt bronze, wood, iron and stone; ceramic roof tiles from Buddhist temples; reliquaries, sutras, and ritual objects, drawn from important museum and temple collections in Korea and Japan. Inspired by recent research on the close political and cultural ties between the kingdoms of the Korean peninsula and the burgeoning Japanese state, the exhibition illuminated a long-neglected dynamic in the development of Buddhist culture in northeast Asia.
Excerpted from Japan Society
“This show exudes a quiet power. … Its shifting aura of enlivened enlightenment may leave you breathless.”
—The New York Times
Transmitting the Forms of Divinity marked the first time an American museum had received the official cooperation of both the Korean and Japanese governments in the presentation of a comparative survey focusing on the two Asian nations.
Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan was co-organized by Japan Society and the Korea Society in association with Gyeongju National Museum in Korea and Nara National Museum in Japan, the exhibition co-curators were Washizuka Hiromitsu, Director of Nara National Museum, Japan; Park Youngbok, Director of Gyeongju National Museum, South Korea; and Kang Woo-bang, Professor at Ewha Woman’s University, Seoul.