I am used to vegetarian restaurants and churches being cults, but this is something new. I'm loathe to spoil the surprise for you, nonetheless: the International Art Museum of America on Sixth Street and Market? 90 percent full of works by the stunning gentleman-living Buddha pictured. Also, it is free on first Thursdays!
Perhaps you have walked by the place before. Surely, you would have noticed the superlative tree-house-in-moat out front.
Upon entering the museum, one is escorted through a Rainforest Cafe-like entry room, only to double-back past two large wooden Chinese dragons flanking the entrance to a room that holds only a glass case with a large piece of coral. It is called "Sea Palace Monarch," says the corresponding metal plaque. You will soon find that these plaques are a highlight of the International Art Museum.
Presumably, your first feeling was that of surprise. Does such large coral exist in the world? If it is not a genuine coral, then why do its luster, texture, and appearance look so real and natural? From the bottom of your heart, you would happily accept it as genuine coral because it is so truly beautiful, so aesthetically pleasing. How beautiful your living room would be if it contained this sculpture.
It is not real coral. But this truly beautiful, aesthetically pleasing piece of ceramic was created by our man Dorje Chang Buddha the III, who it turns out made roughly 90 percent of all the art you are about to see. Dorje does coral ceramics, massive wax drippings, traditional-looking Japanese drawings of lion prides and pandas, Van Gogh-like sunflowers, psychedelic spacescapes, and even builds his own gingko bilboa-esque frames that often as not house large holograms of cave interiors. He also creates jade-inspired tiling, which is available for purchase in the gift shop.
Hell yeah that frame is holding a hologram.
Dorje's yellow period.
It's not all Dorje -- there are occasional works by Flemish masters and oil paintings of sailboats. This is because Dorje is humble. Says the IAMA website, the museum's board of directors initially only wanted the living Buddha's works but:
His Holiness the Buddha adamantly disagreed, expressing His opinion that the International Art Museum of America is a site for masters of art worldwide to showcase their artistic accomplishments and should embrace diversity in orde to provide the public with broader aesthetic enjoyment. the Board of Directors yielded to this suggestion of His Holiness the Buddha.
That's so Dorje, who has done a million amazing things and totally deserves his own museum if only he wasn't so humble. He's the recipient of the ambiguously awesome World Peace Prize and check out the guy's resume (via this spectacular website):
Examples of such holy phenomena include the following. Both humans and non-humans have prostrated to H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III and have listened to His Holiness’s discourses on the dharma. Sentient beings, non-sentient things, birds, aquatic animals, land animals, flowers, grass, trees, tiles, and stones have all expressed respect for His Holiness’s dharma discourses either verbally or through physical actions. His Holiness taught a disciple how to transmit dharma on His behalf. When the person who was transmitted dharma by that disciple passed away, that person’s body emitted light. Thunder rumbled in the sky in reaction to the voice of His Holiness.
Researching Dorje is likely to through you into a k-hole of reincarnation debate and superlative 1990s web design. Tell me this isn't the best website ever. Wish-fulfilling jewel mirrors, a digital prayer wheel that "sends out this peaceful prayer of compassion to all directions and to all beings, purifying the area." That's worth a perma-tab on your Google Chrome. Now compare to the museum's site. What happened there, Board of Directors?
Still, new favorite museum. It has a treehouse, holograms, and I wasn't abducted despite the fact that there was maybe one other visitor there on the first Thursday I was waved in from the sidewalk. The other visitor was a guy who talked loudly on his cell phone about how he was "just checking out some museum man, they like said it was free so I was like cool."
International Art Museum of America
Open Tuesdays-Sundays 10am-7pm, $10
Open until 7pm and free on first Thursdays
1025 Market, SF