Imagining the Divine: Art and the Rise of World Religions
19 October 2017 – 18 February 2018
This show looks at the artistic growth of five world faiths, and finds plenty of mutual influence.
In Oxford, they take a contextual approach to cultures of the ancient world. Since 2009, when the Ashmolean opened its new six-storey building, the collection has been near open plan with sightlines across different levels, spaces and geographical territories. This innovation throws light on the interdependency of crafts and technologies.
This autumn we are set to discover perhaps the most interesting cross-pollination of all; the sharing of religious imagery. In the first millennium AD, visual identity was arguably more important than the written word, so it was artists who were responsible for the spread of faiths.
Visitors may be surprised to find that Christ was once a clean shaven youth, and Buddha was originally represented by footprints and hands; he only later turned into a serene and curvaceous figure.
Iconography does not spring fully formed from the visions of saints and church officials. Artists have had to feel their way through encounters with different traditions and schools of thought.
The exhibition will showcase their work across world religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and, of course, the more recently emergent faiths, Christianity and Islam. This historical survey promises to be the most topical show of the autumn.