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The Perfect Circle

August 14, 2009–January 11, 2010

The mandala, one of Himalayan Buddhism’s most ubiquitous symbols, is created as an artistic aid for meditation. Depicting a realm that is both complex and sacred, the mandala is a visualization tool meant to advance practitioners toward a state of enlightenment.

Mandala: The Perfect Circle explores the various manifestations of these objects, simultaneously explaining their symbolism, describing how they fulfill their intended function, and demonstrating their correlation to our physical reality. An important part of the exhibition is the focus on the complex symbolism of the number five, which plays an important role in Tantric Buddhism. This pentarchy is found in the spatial references of the five directions (the four cardinal points and the center), the five elements, the five colors, the five aggregates, the five wisdoms, and the five Transcendent (Tathagata) Buddhas. The exhibition also displays different types of mandalas, including paintings, three-dimensional works, portable mandalas, and ritual objects that are related to mandala ceremonies.

While many of the paintings in this exhibition are from the collection of the Rubin Museum, the show also includes masterpieces from other museums and private collections from around the world, including the Musée Guimet (Paris), Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Pacific Asia Museum (Pasadena), and Metropolitan Museum (New York).

Recently created virtual mandalas made by computer graphic designers show the creation of a sand mandala and demonstrate the three-dimensionality, fragility and transparency of the mandala (productions by Cornell University, Zurich University, and others).

Mandala Programs and Events
Cabaret Cinema: Walls Are Doors
A collection of classic films that explore mazes, keys, and passwords as metaphors for the labyrinthine puzzles of our existence.

The Living Mandala Experience
Under the guidance of the Nyingmapa lama Khenchen Tsewang Gyamtso Rinpoche, participants will have the chance to step into a painting as they follow the tantric meditation initiation of traveling through a mandala.

RMA Math Trail
Developed by Math for America, this problem-solving scavenger hunt sends math enthusiasts on a tour of Chelsea inspired by the geometric construction of the mandala.

The Mandala Concert
A concert featuring the work of composer/conductor Joel Thome, who uses mandala forms as musical notation, and visual artist Harry Doolittle.

The Mandalas of C.G. Jung
C.G. Jung scholar Sonu Shamdasani discusses Jung’s vision of the universe with RMA Chief Curator Martin Brauen.

Reflections: A Musical Mandala
Violinist Gil Morgenstern performs a concert inspired by the mandala, featuring the music of Bach, Schumann, Ysaye, Bartok, Barkauskas, Villa-Lobos, and Kreisler.

Exhibition Resources

    Special Resources