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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
PAMELA D. WINFIELD 31 and precious materials. They appeal to socially constructed and historically contingent ideals of aesthetic value, and also carry real exchange value based on the artist, provenance, condition, and his torical significance. The distinct categories of art and culture—as opposed to “reli gion” or “religious expression”—are on full display in the secular space of the modern museum, where there is always a fine line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. This insti tutional space was originally invented in the context of nineteenth century EuroAmerican colonial impulses to domesticate nonWest ern cultures under our own neoclassical roofs. To a postcolonial cynic, therefore, such museum displays are tantamount to taxi dermy: the empowered icon has been ripped out of its ritual life, a creature killed for its coat. Like the safari heads and horns mounted on nineteenthcentury Victorian parlor walls, the Buddha head was a necessary aesthetic complement to one’s orientalist interior decor and remains a popular decoration today. We are all, in a sense, com plicit in the antiquities trade that has decapitated hundreds of heads and hands to be mounted and placed in cosmopolitan bookcases or chinoiserie collections. Certainly, many early nineteenthcentury connoisseur–collectors were earnest in their endeavors to bring Buddhist art to the West. Bostonians Ernest Fenellosa and William Sturgis Bigelow were genu ine Buddhist practitioners, avid collectors, and passionate advocates for the preservation of Japanese Buddhist art. But this was only because their own country’s unequal treaties with Japan during the Meiji period (1868–1912) had occasioned the exploitative economic conditions for the temples’ firesale prices. Elsewhere, the French industrialist Émile Guimet (1836–1918) genuinely strove to recreate the ritual miseenscène in his eponymous museum in Lyon and later Paris. He engaged Mongolian monks or “authentic” Japanese Bud dhist “bonzes” to perform esoteric and Pure Land rituals in front