Deep in the bustling lanes of New Delhi lies an oasis of ancient artistry. A place where history is reimagined, and the golden periods of Gandhara, Pala, and Gupta come alive through stone. Welcome to Asiatique Gallery, the brainchild of Raoul Saigal, a man whose heart beats for the mystique of ancient Indian sculptures. With Bhutan’s rich Buddhist heritage, the stories from Asiatique resonate deeply for us, making it a haven for any Bhutanese art enthusiast.
Raoul’s journey is an eclectic one. Born in India and raised amidst the vibrant art scene of Hong Kong, he was surrounded by a juxtaposition of Hindu and Buddhist art. His mother, an art teacher, festooned their home with majestic Buddhist sculptures and paintings. This early immersion, coupled with the indelible charm of roadside craftsmen in New Delhi, kindled a passion in Raoul for Buddhist sculptures.
But it was a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that truly transformed his life. The grandeur of the Gandharan sculptures on display left him in awe. These sculptures, a perfect blend of Greco-Buddhist art, showcased a fusion of Hellenistic influences intertwined with Asian and Persian styles. Spellbound, he wished for such exquisite masterpieces to be more accessible to art lovers around the world.
Inspired, Raoul returned to India with a dream—to recreate these ancient art forms without diluting their beauty and uniqueness, and at the same time making them affordable. Collaborating with Rajesh Kumar, a descendant of master artists skilled in ancient traditions, they formed the linchpin of what they fondly call “Team Buddha”. Their craftsmen, armed with knowledge and techniques passed down through centuries, reproduce these sculptures with an accuracy and dedication that is hard to find elsewhere.
For Bhutanese readers, the allure of Asiatique Gallery’s collection lies in its deep Buddhist roots. Works like the towering Maitreya Bodhisattva or the enchanting seated Bodhisattva Padmapani echo the spiritual ethos that Bhutan cherishes. Moreover, the recently auctioned 900-year-old Pala sculpture of the Buddhist deity Lokantha, a masterpiece standing tall at almost 60 inches, speaks of an art form that merges history, devotion, and unmatched artistry.
Asiatique’s sculptures, despite their affordable pricing, are carved from ancient stones using time-honored techniques. Every sculpture is a testimony to a bygone era, recreated with precision, love, and a desire to make them accessible to all.
As Asiatique Gallery marches ahead in its artistic endeavor, it remains open to collaboration. Raoul expressed a keen interest in partnering with researchers and scholars to further expand their catalogue, ensuring their reproductions remain authentic and resonate deeply with the connoisseurs of art.
In a world increasingly dominated by fleeting digital images, Asiatique Gallery offers a tangible connection to our shared past. For Bhutanese art lovers, it’s a journey through time, an opportunity to touch, feel, and own a piece of ancient history. A history that reverberates with Bhutan’s spiritual core.