Media only: Megan Krefting 202-633-0271;
Public only: 202.633.1000

February 25, 2010

The Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries will offer a series of free public events on the opening weekend of “In the Realm of the Buddha,” a celebration of the sacred arts of Tibetan Buddhism, on view March 13 through July 18.

Two exhibitions of Tibetan sacred art will open March 13: “The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection” invites visitors to experience a magnificent Tibetan shrine room, presented to the public for the first time. A second exhibition, Lama, Patron, Artist: The Great Situ Panchen,”offers a rare look at the life and legacy of an 18th-century Tibetan painter.

Highlights of the opening weekend celebration include the creation of a sand mandala, dance, film, a conversation with shrine collector Alice Kandell and opportunities to learn more about family shrines and musical instruments from the Himalayas. Opening weekend events are scheduled as follows:

Friday, March 12
World Premiere of Buddha
In person: David Grubin, filmmaker, and Gaetano Kazuo Maida, executive director of the International Buddhist Film Festival
On Friday, March 12, at 7 p.m. in the Freer’s Meyer auditorium, the galleries will present the world premiere of the film Buddha, a new two-hour documentary created for PBS by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by actor Richard Gere. The film provides insights from contemporary Buddhists—including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It is scheduled to air on PBS April 7 and was produced in conjunction with the exhibition “Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art,” organized by the Asia Society Museum in New York City, opening in March 2010. Buddha is part of the film series, “Tibetan Buddhism: Films from Around the World,” presented by the Freer and Sackler, in conjunction with the International Buddhist Film Festival (United States/2009/112 min./video/English). For a complete schedule visit

Saturday, March 13
Tibetan Gyal-Shay Dance
To ensure an auspicious beginning, the exhibition will open with a 15-minute performance of Tibetan Gyal-Shay dance at 10:30 a.m. on the Freer steps (Mall side). The dancers will lead a procession through the Haupt Garden to the Sackler Gallery entrance. (Rain location: concourse level of Ripley Center.)

The Sacred Art of Making a Mandala
Consecration ceremony: Saturday, March 13; 12 p.m.
Public viewing hours: Saturday, March 13; 12:30 – 2 p.m., 3 – 5 p.m. and
March 14 – 20; 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., 2 – 4 p.m.
Disillusionment ceremony: Sunday, March 21; 12 p.m.
Mandalas are circular patterns that Tibetan Buddhists use for meditation and spiritual development. Visitors can experience the opening ritual of this sacred Buddhist tradition in a brief consecration ceremony at in the Sackler pavilion. At specified hours throughout the day, the public is invited to watch as the Venerable Ngawang Chojor, a mandala master, painstakingly creates a complex design with colorful grains of sand. Public viewing hours will continue in the Sackler pavilion March 14 – 20, until the mandala is complete. On Sunday, March 21, the mandala will be swept away in a disillusionment ceremony, signifying the impermanence of all things.

My Family’s Shrine, My Family’s Culture
Beginning Saturday, March 13, and periodically throughout the exhibition, monks and members of the Tibetan community will discuss family shrines on display in the Sackler Gallery’s education classroom (sublevel 2). Visitors can see how contemporary Tibetans arrange sacred paintings, sculptures, photographs and offerings in family altars and learn why particular items are placed in the shrines. Note: This program will be repeated March 20, April 17, May 1, May 22, June 5, June 19 and July 10 at 2 p.m.

Sunday, March 14
The Collector’s View: Alice S. Kandell 
Visitors may join collector Kandell and curator Debra Diamond at 1 p.m. in the Freer’s Meyer Auditorium for a conversation about the Tibetan shrine on view in the exhibition. The collector will share her perspective on the shrine and the individual objects within it and will sign copies of her book A Shrine for Tibet: The Alice S. Kandell Collection following the event.

Musical Instruments from the Himalayas
At 2 p.m., world music educator Bill Jenkins invites children and adults to explore the sounds produced by drums, cymbals, long horns, flutes and other traditional musical instruments from the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau in the ImaginAsia classroom on Sackler sublevel 2.

The Karma Kagyu Tradition on Film
In person: Greg Eller, producer, and Gaetano Kazuo Maida, executive director of the International Buddhist Film Festival
This program of three documentary films spotlights the Karma Kagyu, a Buddhist tradition closely associated with the Encampment style of Tibetan painting presented in the exhibition “Lama, Patron, Artist: The Great Situ Panchen.”The films will screen consecutively in the Freer’s Meyer Auditorium beginning at 3 p.m. The Karma Kagyu Tradition on Film is part of the film series, “Tibetan Buddhism: Films from Around the World,” at the Freer and Sackler.

The galleries’ exploration of Tibetan Buddhist art and culture will continue through the spring and into the summer with engaging films, talks, tours and hands-on art projects. For complete schedules, event locations and additional details on all “In the Realm of the Buddha” exhibitions and events, please visit

“Lama, Patron, Artist: The Great Situ Panchen” was organized by the Rubin Museum of Art, New York City. The exhibition is part of the Sackler Gallery’s Asia in America program, which showcases the holdings of important American institutional collections of Asian art.
“The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection” was organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events, the public is welcome to visit For general Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285.