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Strengthening the Collection

The Rubin Museum opened our doors in 2004 with an initial gift of more than 1,000 works of art from founders Shelley and Donald Rubin. Along with purchases and additional gifts from the founders and other donors, our collection numbered more than 3,000 works of art as of 2014. As the Museum moves further into our second decade, we are reviewing the collection with an eye toward identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas where new acquisitions will help build on the quality, scope, and depth of the collection. The goal is to use the collection to create meaningful exhibitions that resonate with our visitors, provide additional learning and research opportunities for scholars, and represent the rich traditions of Himalayan art.

For information on collection image rights and reproductions, click here.


The Rubin Museum supports our mission through the collection, preservation, and exhibition of outstanding examples of art and cultural heritage from the Himalayan region, using these works to inspire and inform visitors about this part of Asia.

Objects join the collection by means of gift, bequest, purchase, exchange, or other transactions through which the title passes to the Museum. We consider the following factors when adding a work of art to the collection:

· Quality

· Rarity

· Artistic merit and aesthetics

· Intellectual value

· Attribution and provenance

· Price or value

· Physical condition

· Cost of storage and maintenance

· Restriction of use

· Potential for exhibition and research

During the acquisition process we strictly adhere to applicable United States law and other guidelines established in our collection management policy.


Every work of art has an interesting story about where it has been and who has owned it. Provenance research is essential to understanding the ownership history of an art object. Before acquiring a work of art, the Rubin makes a substantial effort to obtain from sellers and donors all available information and accurate written documentation attesting to its ownership history. We also actively research provenance information for objects in our existing collection. This information typically includes but is not limited to the following:

· The dates and physical locations of a work of art since its creation or discovery

· The exhibition and publication history of a work of art, if any

· Whether the donor or seller has a clear title to a work of art

· Whether there have been any claims to ownership of a work of art

· Whether a work of art appears in relevant databases and publications of stolen works

· The circumstances under which a work of art is being offered to the Museum

We believe that collecting activities should adhere to high standards of ethical and professional practice. As such we follow the guidelines set forth in our board-approved collections management policy, which is based on recommendations established by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) that advocate adherence to the UNESCO Convention of 1970 regarding acquisitions of ancient and archeological materials.

For works not defined as ancient and archeological the Museum generally follows the date of the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) by requiring a proven object history from the time of acquisition retroactively to 1983. The Museum is opposed to the illicit trafficking of stolen or looted cultural property and will not acquire any material known or suspected to be stolen or looted.


Most works held by the Rubin Museum were donated from privately assembled collections. For more than three decades Donald and Shelley Rubin developed a passion for the art and cultures of the Himalayan region. After decades of collecting they felt strongly the importance of ensuring a lasting public benefit, so they founded the Rubin Museum of Art, a public museum dedicated to the art and ideas of the Himalayan region. Their early financial support, as well as donation of the vast majority of their personal collection, established the art as available for scholarship, preservation, and public appreciation.

We are committed to researching the provenance or ownership history of our collection, along with other important scholarly considerations. In 2016 the Rubin Museum began a multiyear collection cataloging project in an effort to consolidate research, fill in gaps, and complete and verify key information on each work in the collection. The Museum’s professional curatorial staff guides this effort, augmented by the opinions and research of scholars around the world. Since 1997 most of the Museum’s collection has been published online at Himalayan Art Resources, an independently operated scholarly database, as well as in our own online channels and in the wide range of the Museum’s research-oriented publications.


The Rubin Museum of Art welcomes researchers to make use of its collection. To request research access to objects in the Museum’s collection, please fill out the Researcher Registration Form and submit to


The Rubin Museum periodically assesses the collection as a whole with the following question in mind: Does an object help balance the collection or create redundancies? During this review we may identify objects that are not critical to the Museum or its mission. These are recommended for removal from the collection in a process known as deaccessioning.

Deaccessioning allows the Museum to refine the collection and remove works of art that may be unnecessarily duplicative, or will rarely be seen due to condition or quality. Other objects may not be appropriate to the Museum’s mission or area of collecting.

You can view the objects selected for deaccession below. Deaccessioning is a common museum practice for which professional associations have established high standards and rigorous scrutiny. While there are many ways that museums dispose of deaccessioned objects (including gifts to other institutions), most often they sell them to raise funds for other needed objects. Proceeds from sales are used only to fund other acquisitions.

Our acquisition and deaccession policies ensure that the Rubin Museum of Art will remain a professionally responsible institution.

See All Deaccessioned Objects


The collection exists primarily to support our exhibitions and research programs. Selections from our permanent collection of traditional art are always on view. In addition we feature temporary exhibitions that are not limited to our collection but allow us to explore ideas that often work in dialogue with it. The Rubin is also generous in lending works of art from our collection to other institutions worldwide.


The Rubin Museum values long-term loans as an important way to present fuller, richer narratives. These select works of art supplement the permanent collection. Loans broaden our outlook and ability to tell compelling stories and reach new audiences. For example, exhibitions often feature objects from the more than 80 works of art on long-term loan through 2020 from the renowned Nyingjei Lam collection. Long-term loans enlarge the pool of objects that we can draw on for exhibitions, research, and loans to other exhibitions across the country and around the world.