In downtown Los Angeles, ground will soon be broken for billionaire Eli
Broad’s new museum—a 120,000-square-foot trophy case for the most
glittering art that money can buy, from Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons.
Across town at Westwood’s ever provocative Hammer Museum, a very
different kind of artwork will be finished this month—and promptly
thrown into the ocean. The Mandala Project, a collaboration with Ari
Bhöd, the American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation, will
briefly occupy a gallery as four Tibetan monks create a staggeringly
intricate sand design during a 10-day ceremony. Upon completion, the
mandala will be ritually destroyed on November 7 and its sand carried
via public procession to the Pacific for dispersal among the waves.
Deeply meaningful but physically ephemeral, the mandala is traditionally
seen as a symbol of purity. Given today’s economic realities, it’s also
a refreshing antidote to the art-market mind-set—an anti-Koons for the