Located in the Dahlem area of southwest Berlin in the building
which also houses the Museum of East Asian Art, Berlin's Museum of
Indian Art (Museum für Indische Kunst) is one of the most
important destinations for students of the arts of the Silk
Road. The primary reason is that it houses the Turfan
Collection of objects brought back from the northern Silk Road
sites in Xinjiang by the German archaeological expeditions of the
early 20th century.
These materials from locations
such as Khocho, Bezeklik and Kizil are unique.
While one may
argue over issues of cultural property and rue the fact that some
that were too large to remove from the walls for storage were
destroyed in the allied bombing of Berlin in World War II, at least
most have been preserved, whereas there is no guarantee they would
have survived if left in situ. In addition to the
Turfan Collection, the museum exhibits a stunning array of other
art objects from south Asia, including exquisite early Buddhist
sculpture, some important sculptues from Nepal and Tibet, Tibetan
thangkas, and much more.
The Museum recently re-opened with new installations offering
what is arguably one of the most stunning presentations of Asian
art to be found anywhere. Given the attention to renovation
and the new display the museum has been slow in developing a
presence on the Internet. There is a basic web page in
German, the latter displaying a
couple of images not found on the English site.
For a good overview of the concept behind the new installation,
see the article by the museum's director, Marianne Yaldiz, "A New
Concept for the Museum of Indian Art," Orientations: The
magazine for collectors and conoisseurs of Asian art, November
2000, pp. 48-52. That issue has several other articles on the
collections, including Yaldiz's overview of the history of the
Turfan Collection (cited below).
Objects in the Turfan Collection are well known, since they have
been loaned for various exhibits around the world. In the
annotations below, I refer to several published sources where one
may find good, studio-quality images of the most important items in
the collection. I have not conducted an exhaustive search nor
attempted to include references to the original publications by the
German expeditions. It is worth remembering that only a fraction of
the total number of objects are on public display.
The photographs here were taken in early August 2004, most with
a digital camera set for 300 dpi and the ISO equivalent of
between 800 and 1600. The images have been reduced in size
for the Internet. Given the often low light conditions, even
where the photos are quite clear, the high ISO setting means they
may be grainy; so no sharpening of those images has been
attempted. Otherwise basic brightening has been done, and
efforts have been made to "correct" the colors.
The qualifications about image quality noted in my introduction to
our museum web pages certainly apply here. Many of the photos still
display what is probably too much yellow/orange from incandescent
lights. However, the quick process of elminating such a color
cast tends to have the opposite effect of overemphasizing blue.
The current museum display cards are my authoritative source for
information about the objects and are particularly valuable where
they provide Carbon 14 (14C) dates. Those dates,
incidentally, tend to be earlier than the previous ones derived
from stylistic and other considerations. I have supplemented
my captioning notes with information from the identifications in
For the Turfan Collection, my basic organization is by location
where the objects were found rather than by material (as is often
the case in catalogues), date, or subject matter. For the remaining
sections of Indian art, the organization follows approximately that
of the order in the museum's display, beginning with the earliest
items chronologically. My selection emphasizes Buddhist art.
The published references cited are:
Along the Ancient Silk Routes. Central Asian Art
from the West Berlin State Museums (New York:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982). This is still the most extensive
catalogue of the Turfan Collection that is readily available in
Haussman et al., "The Conservation and Reconstruction of the Cave
with the Ring-Bearing Doves," Orientations, November 2000,
In the Footsteps of the Buddha: An Iconic Journey from
India to China 26.9.1998-15.12.1998. Jointly presented by
The Department of Fine Arts & The University Museum and Art
Gallery, The University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong: University Museum
and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 1998). One of
the most elegant exhibit catalogues on Buddhist art, with stunning
reproductions. The Turfan material is principally on pp.
249-296; other objects from the Berlin museum are generously
represented earlier in the book.
Kezi'er shi ku Kezi'er shi ku.
Xinjinang Weiwu'er Zizhiqu wen wu guan li wi yuan hui, Baicheng
xian Kezi'er Qian fo dong wen wu bao guan suo, Beijing da xue kao
gu xi bian. 3 vols. (Beijing, 1989-1997) (series: Zhongguo shi ku),
Vol. 3. Plates 176-228 in this volume of the three on the Kizil
Caves are high quality color photographs of most of the major
pieces in MIK which were taken from Kizil.
Museum of Indian Art Berlin (=Prestel Museum Guide) (Munich
etc.: Prestel Verlag, 2000). A handy pocket-sized overview of
the collection which may be purchased at the museum and is
available in other languages.
Marianne Yaldiz, "The History of the Turfan Collection in the
Museum of Indian Art," Orientations, November 2000, pp.