United Nations Displays Sri Chinmoy's Paintings

With military scuffles breaking out from the Caucuses to the Philippines, it's hard not to be cynical when the U.N. hosts an exhibit entitled "Paintings for World Harmony." But in this case, the artist warrants a suspension of disbelief: the acrylics are by Sri Chinmoy, the recently deceased humanitarian who campaigned tirelessly for tolerance and peace. In the course of his travels, Chinmoy also found time to complete thousands of paintings—mostly airy and free-spirited bird prints—which have found permanent homes in London's Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in St. Petersburg. The current show, which will go on a world tour after its stint in New York, displays 25 miniatures by Chinmoy on the theme of getting along globally. At first glance, the paintings are anything but harmonious: the tiny canvases are crowded with thick paint, clashing colors and messy dots and slashes. But if one thinks of world harmony not as flat sameness but as a respect for difference, then Chinmoy's paintings take on a richer dimension. One even looks like the visual representation of multipolarity, with stiff flagpoles of red sharing space—though not touching—on an orange plain. The highlight of the show is a video of Chinmoy laying down his brushstrokes: calm, deliberate, a man at peace in a messy world.