/ Kruizenga Art Museum


Currently on display 


August 30–December 14

VajrapaniDeities and Devotion in Mongolian Buddhist Art explores the role that art plays in the religious beliefs and devotional practices of Mongolian Tantric Buddhism. The exhibition features 130 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and ritual objects from the Kruizenga Art Museum collection and a California private collection. Most of the artworks date from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and many of the paintings, sculptures and other objects were used in devotional rituals by both ordained clerics and lay believers.

Tibetan monks helped establish Tantric Buddhism — also called Vajrayana Buddhism — as the dominant form of Buddhism in Mongolia in the 16th century. Tantric Buddhism uses sacred incantations, secret gestures, sophisticated meditation and visualization techniques, and complex devotional rituals to help adherents progress toward a state of spiritual enlightenment. Many tantric worship practices are directed toward specific deities that embody either positive qualities that the practitioners are trying to cultivate, or negative qualities they are trying to eliminate from within themselves.

Art plays an important role in Tantric Buddhist practice, helping adherents to imagine the deities they are invoking and providing them with a material way of connecting to those deities. Works of art are also used to teach key aspects of Tantric Buddhist doctrine and history, and can sometimes function further as talismans to provide protection or bring good fortune to their owners.

Deities and Devotion in Mongolian Buddhist Art was organized by the staff of the Kruizenga Art Museum. The museum is immensely grateful to David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton for donating and lending most of the artworks featured in the exhibition. The museum also thanks Dr. Ronald ’62 and Gerri Vander Molen, who donated funds to purchase additional artworks for the exhibition; Garrett Fixx ’20, the museum’s spring 2019 John H. Dryfhout ’64 Intern, who helped design the exhibition and prepare the artworks for display; and Tom Wagner ’84, who designed and produced the accompanying exhibition catalog.

Admission to the exhibition is free, and all are welcome.

A fully illustrated digital copy of the Deities and Devotion in Mongolian Buddhist Art exhibition catalog may downloaded free of charge from the Kruizenga Art Museum website. The catalog is best viewed by selecting View→ Page Display→ Two Page View in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Download the Deities and Devotion in Mongolian Buddhist Art catalog (PDF) 

Image: Vajrapani, Mongolian, 19th century, Pigments and gold on sized cloth; copper, silver and glass case (Gift of David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton)

As a teaching museum, the Kruizenga Art Museum strives to be a center for curiosity, inspiration and cultural exploration. By displaying artworks from a wide range of cultures and historical periods, the museum aims to foster the qualities of empathy, tolerance and understanding in all of our visitors.

Thanks to the generosity of our patrons, the Kruizenga Museum’s collection is constantly growing. In an increasingly diverse and global age, it is important for the Kruizenga to collect and exhibit images and objects that can help tell as many different stories as possible. The Kruizenga Museum collection reflects patterns of cross-cultural exchange that in some cases are centuries old and yet continue to shape our world today. We welcome you to explore this exhibition with an open mind. The exhibition was not designed to be seen in a certain sequence and we encourage you to draw your own connections between the artworks. If you have any comments or questions about the exhibition or the Kruizenga Museum collection, please contact a museum staff member. 


The Kruizenga Art Museum galleries are typically installed with a mix of temporary exhibitions and permanent collection displays. These exhibitions and displays are planned to complement course offerings in the college’s academic curriculum and usually change, partially or completely, at the beginning of each semester.

The museum’s exhibitions are further augmented by lectures, artist demonstrations, film series, musical concerts, dance and theater performances and other relevant educational programs. An endowment gift from Holland residents Dave and Jane Armstrong provides funding for at least one exhibition-related lecture every year, while other programs are made possible through annual gifts and campus partnerships.