Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain

The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall

Cleveland, Ohio: Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain is the first exhibition dedicated to the art of one of the earliest major Hindu sites in Southeast Asia, Phnom Da (Stone Mountain), established around 1,500 years ago. Through a series of refined and immersive digital experiences, the exhibition presents the Cleveland Museum of Art’s monumental sandstone sculpture Krishna Lifting Mount Govardhan in the context of the landscape and sacred space from which it came. In honor of its most recent transformation, the newly restored Cleveland Krishna is showcased with nine related masterworks of stone sculpture on loan from Cambodia and France.

The significance of the mountain-raising episode from India’s myth of the superhuman child-god Krishna reached a high point between the AD 400s and 600s. At the same time, Southeast Asian people were beginning to adopt religious art, texts, and ritual practices from India, reconceived for their own purposes. In the Mekong River delta of southern Cambodia, which was a center of political power until the 700s, control of floodwaters meant economic success. The powerful image of Krishna holding up Mount Govardhan to shield his followers from destructive deluge held special relevance to the population of this region. In the exhibition, cinematic projections of 360-degree video with surround sound transport visitors to the canal ways of the Mekong delta to see how pilgrims journeyed by boat to the site where Krishna and his counterparts were worshiped.

The CMA will offer an unprecedented mixed-reality audiovisual tour, embedded within the exhibition. Using Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets, visitors are shown and guided through the captivating history of the Cleveland Krishna, from the ruins of an abandoned Cambodian cave temple to a glamorous Art Nouveau mansion in Brussels. The story continues with how the sculpture arrived in multiple pieces at the CMA, where conservators worked intensively for months in 1978 and again from 2017 to 2020 to restore and reconstruct the masterwork. A life-size holographic projection reveals how the Krishna sculpture would have looked completely restored, viewed from both outside and within the space of the ancient cave temple.  

The exhibition also brings the Cleveland Krishna together with the seven other monumental sculptures depicting the gods of Phnom Da, seen together for the first time at true-to-life scale in elegant 3-D projections. Details and multiple views of each sculpture captured through high-resolution photogrammetry and laser scans are activated by visitors who can then see up close the awe-inspiring skill of the unknown master artists of ancient southern Cambodia. Revealing Krishna provides visitors with an entirely new and eye-opening experience in which digital media supports the understanding and appreciation of exceptional works of Cambodian art.  

The exhibition is organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

It will run from Sun, 11/14/2021 to Sun, 01/30/2022 at The Cleveland Museum of Art

Principal support is provided by Rebecca and Irad Carmi, Mary Lynn Durham and William Roj, and the Rajadhyaksha Family and DLZ Corporation. Major support is provided by Raj and Karen Aggarwal, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Mary Lynn Durham and William Roj, and the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust. Additional support is provided by DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky, Carl T. Jagatich, the John D. Proctor Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Paul E. Westlake Jr., and in memory of Dr. Norman Zaworski, MD. Generous support is provided by Dr. Michael and Mrs. Catherine Keith.

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