Facing East: Portraits from Asia

“Facing East: Portraits from Asia” exploreed how portraits expressed identity in Asia and the Near East. Paintings, sculpture, and photographs of Egyptian pharaohs, Chinese empresses, Japanese actors and a host of other subjects reveal the unique ways that the self was understood, represented, and projected in Asian art. The exhibition included approximately 70 masterpieces from the collections of Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, Islamic and Ancient Near Eastern art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Popular and academic surveys of portraiture deny that Asia had a portrait tradition. “Facing East” reveals rich and diverse Asian conceptions of portraiture through thought-provoking, cross-cultural juxtapositions of portraits in thematic groupings. These portraits not only provide an entrée into Asian cultures, but also lay bare many of the mechanisms and conceptions of the self that inform western portraiture.