Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum exhibition showcases art and architecture of one of India’s most prominent monuments

Phoenix Art Museum exhibition showcases art and architecture of one of India’s most prominent monuments

Phoenix Art Museum exhibition showcases art and architecture of one of India’s most prominent monuments
Nov, 27, 2021

Exhibitions and Special InstallationsAsian Art

Phoenix Art Museum exhibition showcases art and architecture of one of India’s most prominent monuments

The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith explores the grandeur and evolution of the Harimandir Sahib through historical and contemporary artworks

PHOENIX (November 27, 2021) –This fall, Phoenix Art Museum presents The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith. Featuring approximately 20 photographs, watercolor paintings, prints, and more created by Indian, American, and European artists over two centuries, the exhibition celebrates the enduring splendor of Sikhism’s central monument and place of worship, located in India. Audiences will be introduced to various artistic and architectural elements from the Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim traditions while discovering how the design of the temple reflects the tenets of Sikhism, including the belief that all creation is equal, transcending social distinctions such as caste, creed, gender, or circumstance. The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith is on view from November 27, 2021 through April 24, 2022 in the Khanuja Family Sikh Heritage Gallery.

“We are delighted to share The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith with our community,” said Mark Koenig, the Interim Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “This exhibition is a unique opportunity for viewers to not only deepen their knowledge on the history and culture of Sikhism but to learn about and intimately examine a range of design and architectural elements evident in this exquisite structure at the heart of the Sikh faith.”

Located in what is today the city of Amritsar in the Punjab state of northwestern India, the Golden Temple is the centralized place of worship for all Sikhs. The idea for the spiritual monument was conceived by Guru Arjan Sahib (1563–1606), the fifth Sikh Guru. Early preparations for the site began in 1577, while construction on the building began in 1588, when, according to Sikh history, Mian Mir, a Sufi Muslim saint, laid the cornerstone as a mark of interfaith collaboration. The Guru’s design for the Golden Temple placed the monument at the center, while a causeway connected the sacred structure to a circumambulatory path. Doors on the temple’s four sides symbolized the accessibility of the Sikh faith, which makes no distinction between the four Hindu castes. Builders completed construction in 1601, but through the decades, the Golden Temple was destroyed several times by invaders. The present structure dates to 1764, and renovations over the centuries introduced various design elements. The temple’s upper floors, for example, are now covered in 750 kilograms, or just under one ton, of pure gold, an addition made by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire of India (1799–1849).

Spanning the 19th through the 21st centuries, The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith features historical and contemporary works depicting the renowned site, including images by Italian-English photographer Felice Beato, one of the first photographers to capture images of Asia. The exhibition also features watercolors, prints, and paintings by Indian and American artists who have visited the temple, culminating with works by both Sikh and non-Sikh contemporary artists whose visual narratives draw inspiration from the Golden Temple’s intricate design.

Of particular note are two contemporary works: a print by The Singh Twins, British artists who fuse traditional Indian and contemporary Western influences in works they label “past modern,” and a pigmented work on paper by Rupy C. Tut, a Punjabi Sikh artist based in Northern California who blends calligraphy and Indian miniature painting. The Singh Twins’ work depicts the story of Bibi Rajani and her husband, who had leprosy, today known as Hansen’s disease. The tale dates back to the time of the founding of the town of Amritsar, where the Golden Temple is located. In the work, viewers see Bibi Rajani and her husband next to the Dukh Bhajani Beri, a jujube tree that survives today. Also featured in the composition is a crow transforming into a swan, symbolizing the traditional Sikh belief in the healing power of both the sacred tree and the water surrounding the Golden Temple.

Tut’s 2020 work entitled Darshan, on the other hand, visualizes the phenomena of the same name. Darshan are blessed visions, revelations, or acts of perceiving the Guru, whose depiction is influenced by historical, contemporary, and personal narratives about individual experiences at the Golden Temple. These visions are experienced by devotees of various ages, genders, statuses, and levels of faith. Because they occur across a range of believers, darshan effectively erase or blur superficial or worldly differences, uniting those of disparate backgrounds through a shared experience of the divine.

“The Golden Temple has been a favorite subject of both historical and contemporary artists for more than 400 years because of its harmonious blending of Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim architectural traditions,” said Janet Baker, PhD, the Museum’s curator of Asian art. “Through the varied views represented in The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith, visitors will enjoy a rich portrait of this distinctive monument, marked by a stunning sacred pool, gilded domes, marble balustrades, murals of floral and mythological motifs, and decorative elements made of jewels, mirrors, ivory, and glass. Viewers will also be able to discern how the structure has continued to transform over time, its splendor indelible.”

The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith is presented in the Khanuja Family Sikh Heritage Gallery, one of only two galleries in the United States dedicated exclusively to the exhibition of Sikh art. The exhibition continues the Museum’s initiative to showcase artwork and objects that bring the world to Phoenix, introducing the community to works of art from diverse cultures.

About the Exhibition

The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith is on view November 27, 2021 through April 24, 2022 in the Khanuja Family Sikh Heritage Gallery. The exhibition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. It is made possible through the generosity of the Sikh Heritage Fund, with additional support from the Museum’s Circles of Support and Museum Members.

Admission is free for Museum Members, U.S. veterans and active-duty military and their families, and youth 5 and younger. Entrance to the exhibition is included in general admission for the general public. During voluntary-donation times, the exhibition is offered to the general public with pay-what-you-wish admission. Voluntary-donation times include Wednesdays from 3 – 7 pm and the first Friday of each month from 3 – 7 pm. For a full breakdown of general admission prices and hours, see

To request interviews and high-resolution photography, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2105 or

About Phoenix Art Museum

Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 350,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit, or call 602.257.1880.

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