Exhibition Details

Location: Orme Lewis Gallery
Dates: January 4, 2012
to March 25, 2012


Throughout history, religious cultures have used sacred objects as part of rituals, devotions and celebrations. Sacred Word & Image: Five World Religions features over 50 examples of the sacred written word and pictorial image as expressed in the cultures of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity throughout the past 1500 years.  Drawn from several prominent private collections in Arizona as well as the Museum’s collection, this exhibition includes manuscripts, textiles, prayer rugs, gilded shrines, crosses and icons, jeweled reliquaries and painted altarpieces that bring the history and interconnections between major world faiths together.

“The variety of materials used to document mankind’s significant thoughts and beliefs during this long span of time is astonishing: paper, palm leaf, wood, lacquer, metal and ivory,” commented Dr. Janet Baker, curator of Asian art at Phoenix Art Museum. “In an age when the printed word and image have been transformed into electronic form, it is revelatory to see how past civilizations used the means available to them at the time and in the place where they were created to become lasting documents of thoughts, visions, beliefs and hopes for a better world, both in the present and future realms.”

The works in this exhibition transcend time and place, as their small scale and portability have allowed them to pass through many hands of both believers and collectors alike.  They allow us a better understanding of the quest of the human heart and mind to seek answers to profound questions:  Who are we?  Why are we here?  What lies beyond this life?  How should we conduct our lives on this earth?  Most important, for the 21st century, is the question of how we can live together as a global society. 

“It is my sincere hope that each visitor to the Sacred Word & Image: Five World Religions exhibition and each reader of the catalogue will find their understanding and appreciation for the interconnectedness of human faith and ideals enhanced by the beauty and meaning of these artistic and literary works,” commented Baker.

These sacred objects will be presented within five thematic topics: Sacred Spaces, Language as Transmission, Otherworldly Visions and Miraculous Events, Symbols of Power, and Divine Beauty.  To document this special exhibition, an electronic catalogue has been created which can be accessed globally and will be available in two formats through the Museum’s website.  Scholarly essays have been contributed by several experts in Arizona.

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About the Electronic Catalogue

To document this special exhibition, Phoenix Art Museum presents its first electronic catalogue. The Sacred Word & Image: Five World Religions catalogue features short essays on five world religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and highlights objects in each of the religious areas including highly detailed digital photographs.

The electronic catalogue is 156 pages, with over 150 full-color photos of sixty objects, and features essays by Dr. Janet Baker, Dr. Zsuzsanna Gulacsi, Dr. Stephen Batalden and Dr. Sherry Harlacher; as well as a Foreword by Phoenix Art Museum Director James K. Ballinger and Arizona State University’s President Michael M. Crow celebrating the collaboration of Arizona scholars, collectors and cultural and education institutions.

TheSacred Word & Image: Five World Religions catalogue will be available for purchase online at store.phxart.org.

Exhibition Sponsors

This exhibition is presented by U.S. Bancorp Foundation and U.S. Bank Private Client Reserve. Support provided by Amy S. Clague, Coleene and Barry Fernando, Dr. Dhira Mahoney, and Ana and James Melikian.