New Museum of Sacred Art

October 16, 2009

The land on which the Hall of Appearance was sold and the exhibition dismantled temporarily. A new museum has been built in Bieup to give the exhibition a more permanent home. The new installation is expected to open in early December.

Some of the works like the Devandrashika Hindu Temple, the Hindu Laksmi Temple and the Buddhist Land of Bodhi, all wonderful sites are gone now. Other works have moved or have been altered. Among the new works are Mont Sainte Michel, the Cologne Cathedral and a traditional 19th century synagogue called Zeide Kamp.




Description of Exhibition – Sacred Art in a Virtual World

It is tempting to think of virtual worlds as an emerging media. Virtual worlds offer new ways to create and explore art. Some of our most treasured monuments have been reconstructed in “Second Life”, the most popular of the virtual worlds. These include the Sistine Chapel, San Francesco in Assisi, Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai, the city of Rome, Islamic, Christian and Jewish structures in Jerusalem, Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul, the Forbidden City in Beijing, and a virtual recreation of the entire old masters wing of the Dresden Gemaldegalerie. Unfortunately these manifestations can be fleeting. Some monuments such as the Crystal Palace and a three-dimensional Van Gogh exhibit already have been removed.

To think of the virtual worlds only as new media misses the point and limits the educational opportunities. These architectural monuments are more than three-dimensional showpieces. An individual’s “avatar” can visit these places, move around the space, interact with people there, and even virtually use the buildings for their original purpose. Many of the staff in the Visual Resources Collection, along with members of our Second Life “Art History” group, have been thinking about, and discussing these issues. We have been offered the opportunity to explore the issues in a virtual exhibition that will open in the Hall of Appearance in Rieul in Second Life at the end of January. [The exhibition building belongs to the Play as Being group, an initiative of the Kira Institute (]. The exhibition will be called “Art and the Sacred in the Virtual World”. On one hand the exhibition will be a virtual catalog of many of these monuments, offering one convenient entry point. The exhibition will compare the second life constructions with the real life counterparts. But what happens when many of the real life barriers of exhibiting architecture are removed? So far real life architectural exhibitions have been limited to photos, plans, drawings, models and maybe architectural components. What if one could teleport to the actual building as part of the exhibit, and then return, and then to another building, and so on? How does this add to our experience? Can we begin to think about comparative spaces? How do the spaces relate to real life counterparts? How does space relate to the functioning of the building in the virtual world? Can a virtual construction help us understand anything about real life buildings?

Sacred Art in a Virtual World

The roots of the museum were in an exhibition at the Play as Being “Hall of Appearance” in the Rieul sim in 2009. The following was the description of that exhibit:

Opening on February 6, 2009, the exhibition ( explores virtual buildings of a number of eastern and western traditions. Many of these buildings have real life counterparts. Wherever they do, we explored the historical, art historical and spiritual significance of the real life building and then considered the same three areas within the virtual buildings. We raised questions about use of these virtual buildings. We found that these buildings had much to offer in three ways: 1) as symbols; 2) as stages for spiritual activities; and that they could expand our understanding of the concept of space in buildings.

Entrance to Exhibbition
Entrance to Exhibition

As symbols these virtual buildings can reflect all the history, artistic merit and siritual power of the originals. In some sites like St. Catherine’s, Mt. Sinai, we can feel the holiness come through. In others like the Sistine Chapel it is the power of the art as we stand there with our cameras exploring the ceiling above.

Virtual architecture as a stage in played out in many ways. It can be a place for groups to gather for various activities. Some sacred sites provide places for the individual to reflect like the cave in the Bodhi, Land of Bodhidharma or the church at St. Catherine’s.

Hindu Room
Hindu Room

Often we just pass through buildings in real life limiting our perspective of the space around us. Virtual buildings invite us to use our cameras to see space from mutltiple perspectives, as if we could fly around our real life buildings. Those of us at Rutgers can experience that in the Kirkpatrick Chapel.

In real life it is not possible to view the actual buildings in an architecture exhibit, especially one of this scope. We took advantage of the ability to teleport to create the signature feature of this exhibit, the virtual travel guides. Every featured building has a notecard called “Sacred Art Guide to <building> with a slurl (i.e. a Second Life url) to the building, often a walking tour, some facts, some opinions, and then a slurl back to the exhibit room from which one left.

Judaism Room
Judaism Room

Adams Dubrovna – Coordinator

Avatars Contributing to First Exhibit at Hall of Appearance Opening in February 2009:

An Afterthought
Ariadne Lemon
Abigail Lavendel
Clare Carrasco
Gaya Ethaniel
Glauks Sabra
Hana Hendrassen
Scathach Rhiadra

Real Life people without avatars who contributed: Devon Budrum, Tuna  Sare,  and Jennie Smithken-Lindsay

Thanks to Storm Nordwind for providing the buildings and innumerable services, for valuable advice and his patience while we set this up and to Genesis Zhangsun for setting up the events and providing publicity, and to Pema Pera, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Thanks to artists AuraKyo Insoo and Dan Yapungku for valuable advice on exhibiting

The exhibition was curated by students and staff of the Department of Art History at Rutgers University and the “Art History” group in Second Life. It was sponsored by the Play-as-Being Group, an initiative of Kira Institute.