I have always looked forward to my visits to the Art Museums. I find them meaningful and enriching because I get to view and study the great masterpieces, and gain from the additional literature surrounding the works. I am also a firm believer that Art museums come to exists, because society has acquired a taste for the finer things in life, its visitors more refine, compassionate and respectful about the feelings and believes and sufferings of others.
Thus, it was a similar sense of expectation I had when I visited the Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibits were exquisite and I was thoroughly pleased with my day as I went on a tour of the wings. It was there, that I came across an exhibit, which changed my belief on how a thing of joyous beauty can transform into the something painful, hideous and totally unacceptable. I am speaking of a particular statue of Hindu God which I feel does not belong in the museum. There is this large granite statue of the Hindu God Vishnu, placed in the Asian Civilization. For those who are not familiar with Hinduism, Vishnu is the preserver. So what, you might ask if you are convinced that art should be viewed for Art’s sake. Well, I might be forced to agree with you if the object had been meant for the purpose of art or if it had been a smaller figurine that could be easily purchased for a price. However, this particular statue happens to be priceless artifact, crafted for the particular purpose of worship and veneration. I believe that this statue was not meant for public spectacle, rather meant to reside in some temple, a sacred artifact often heavily decorated and displayed for the purpose of worship. While, just how this statue came into the museum is anyone’s guess, I must confess that it pained me a great deal to cast my eyes on the naked torso of what had been probably a mighty god. A source of hope and thrust for so many people and I was surprised at myself when I found myself raising my hands in veneration, only to immediately withdraw them when I realized that it was not a religious place. I felt as if I had been violated, a desecration. That was my god, who had been placed in a glass case and confined within the doors of the museum. I believe that my Gods have been imprisoned and I believe that I had a responsibility to speak for them. Museums have a role in educating people, but that does not include uprooting religious icons and imprisoning them in museum halls as a set of curiosity objects. I believe that even ancient gods merit some respect.
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