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The Magnificent Caves of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on the Silk Road

Sep 23, 2023
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR
Fred & Suzanne Fields Ballroom
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The Mildred Schnitzer Memorial Lecture in Asian Art

We welcome visitors to this year’s Mildred Schnitzer Memorial Lecture, The Magnificent Caves of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on the Silk Road with Asian art scholar and Seattle Art Museum Director Emeritus Dr. Mimi Gardner Gates. 

This lecture introduces the spectacular Buddhist caves of Dunhuang, a UNESCO World Heritage site in China’s northwestern Gobi Desert, on the Silk Roads, and presents the site’s sculptures and wall paintings, which are among the finest and earliest examples of Buddhist art in China. Founded by Buddhist monks in the fourth century, the caves were the focus of Buddhist worship and cross-cultural interaction for over a thousand years. At the beginning of the 20th century, a stunning discovery was made of a hidden cave containing some 50,000 precious art treasures and manuscripts. The lecture will address the challenges of preserving this magnificent ancient site and its art.

Mimi Gardner Gates is a scholar of Asian art with a B.A. from Stanford University in Asian History and a doctorate in Art History from Yale University. She was curator and director of the Yale University Art Gallery prior to moving to Seattle. For fifteen remarkable years (1994-2009), she directed the Seattle Art Museum, building the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park and expanding the downtown museum. She is currently Director Emeritus of the Seattle Art Museum. In addition, Mimi Gates is co-chair of the Dunhuang Foundation, co-curated the 2016 exhibition Cave Temples of Dunhuang, Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road at the J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, and serves as a trustee on many boards including the Seattle Symphony, Yale University Art Gallery Governing Board, and Copper Canyon Press. She is also trustee emeritus of the Gates Cambridge Scholars Trust at Cambridge University, U.K.

This lecture is funded by the Mildred Schnitzer Asian Art Endowment Fund, celebrating its 24th year of support for bringing renowned scholars of Asian art to Portland Art Museum audiences.