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See the major transformation coming to the Rubin Museum next year

The museum is building a Mandala Lab that launches in 2021.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

The Rubin Museum is undergoing a major renovation of its Chelsea building to create what it calls the "Mandala Lab."

Starting November 10, its third-floor galleries (where you'll currently find the permanent collection exhibition "Masterworks of Himalayan Art") will be closed to the public so that construction work can begin on the lab, which is set to reopen in fall 2021.

The new 2,700-square-foot floor will be dedicated to cognitive science, contemplative practice and visitor-contributed art experiences. It will also be the new home for School and Family Programs.

What does that mean for the Mandala Lab exactly? The floor will be divided into four quadrants, representing the cardinal directions (north, south, east and west) and will use colors to symbolize the elements (earth, fire, air and water). Each section will invite visitors to identify the emotional state they're in and change it into "a complementary wisdom" like equanimity and discernment, the museum says. Artists are also being commissioned to create experiences informed by the mandala's teachings on emotions.

Mandala Lab Rubin Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Peterson Rich Office / Rubin Museum of Art

Aside from the mandala design, the new floor will have a small amphitheater, space for learning with tables, chairs, a digital screen and rounded walls made in a modular, art-lab-like way.

The entire project is the museum's aim to offer tools for coping with day-to-day problems and anxieties that are now heightened by the pandemic. Visitors can learn to develop calmness, resilience, emotional intelligence, and connection, by coming to the lab, reps say.

"Our society is struggling right now. We are navigating a pandemic, we are grappling with a climate crisis, and we are confronting longstanding inequities and deep divisions in our society," Executive Director Jorrit Britschgi said. "With the Mandala Lab, our hope is to empower us to face these challenges: to widen our imagination, understand and manage our emotions, enrich our capacity for empathy, and connect with others. Our hope is for the Rubin to be a Museum where art, ideas, research, and our emotions connect."

Furthermore, The Mandala Lab will help offer transformational moments for people through its Himalayan art. 

Mandala Lab Rubin Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Peterson Rich Office / The Rubin Museum of Art

"The Rubin has long fostered dialogue between art, contemplative practice, and contemporary science, but the Mandala Lab is an ambitious experiment," said Rubin Museum Chief Programmatic Officer Tim McHenry. "By developing a simulacrum of a tantric Buddhist teaching that anyone of virtually any age and cultural experience can take part in, we equally provide a platform for scientists to investigate the benefits that these practices can offer us in our world right now. We are fortunate to have had guidance from scholars like John Dunne and teachers like Mingyur Rinpoche who actively explore this intersection of the mind sciences and wisdom traditions."

"Masterworks: A Journey through Himalayan Art" will reopen on January 21, 2021, on the fifth floor. 

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