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May 23, 2017

The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will mark the reopening of the museums by celebrating “Where Asia Meets America” on the National Mall. The grounds of the Freer and Sackler will be transformed into a vibrant night market, complete with food stalls, live music and performances. Inside the buildings, visitors will experience the newly reimagined galleries and a series of new temporary exhibitions, as well as specially programmed in-gallery experiences. The Oct. 14–15 event is free and open to the public and co-presented with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The Saturday evening program will “Light Up the Night” with a sea of lanterns, light displays and video-art projections. Food and art stalls, in partnership with Asian American community organizations from the Washington, D.C., area, will provide a multisensory experience of Asian art, food and culture. On Sunday, the market continues alongside a family day of activities throughout the museums, including special stroller tours for young families, hands-on art-making workshops and kite flying on the National Mall.

The Sackler Gallery is closing July 10, joining the Freer, which closed in January 2016. Both will reopen Oct. 14, and the public will be welcomed back to the Freer and Sackler—two galleries, one destination.

The closures provide an opportunity to improve the visitor experience at the museums. The Freer has received substantial upgrades, and its galleries have been reimagined thematically. The Sackler will reopen with newly installed collections galleries. The wayfinding in both museums has been redesigned so that the buildings are more uniformly connected and provide a cohesive visitor experience. Also, a new podcast series will offer diverse voices and perspectives on the collection for visitors in the museum and online.

The reopening season that follows will run from October through June 2018 with a range of special public programs and activities. The Sackler Gallery will reopen with the following special exhibitions:


Oct. 14–Jan. 15, 2018

Cats’ personalities have made them internet stars today. In ancient Egypt, cats were associated with divinities, as revealed in “Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt.” Cat coffins and representations of the cat-headed goddess Bastet are among the extraordinary objects that reveal felines’ critical role in ancient Egyptian religious, social and political life. Dating from the Middle Kingdom to the Byzantine period, the nearly 70 works include statues, amulets and other luxury items decorated with feline features, which enjoyed special status among Egyptians. The exhibition, organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art, also dedicates a small section to cats’ canine counterparts.


Oct. 14–October 2020

Visitors can step into a Tibetan Buddhist shrine, linger at a Sri Lankan stupa, travel with an eighth-century Korean monk and discover remarkable objects in “Encountering the Buddha.” The exhibition draws upon the museums’ collections of Buddhist art from Afghanistan, India, Southeast Asia, China and Japan. By exploring new narratives and technologies, “Encountering the Buddha” invites visitors to reconsider Buddhist practices and concepts of beauty. The Freer|Sackler gratefully acknowledges the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation as the exhibition’s lead sponsor. The exhibition features the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room from the Alice S. Kandell Collection.


Opens Oct. 14

Musical innovations in the Bronze Age meld with today’s digital technology in this interactive exploration of ancient Chinese bells. Thousands of years ago, Chinese musicians worked with foundry technicians to cast matched sets of bronze bells of different sizes to produce a range of tones. They developed oval-shaped bells that, depending on where they were struck, produced two distinct pitches with an intentional interval between them. “Resound” investigates this advancement with displays of early instruments including a graduated set of matched bells discovered together in a Chinese tomb, videos of ancient bells being played and chances for visitors to compose their own music on virtual bronze bells.


Oct. 14–June 24, 2018

Internationally acclaimed artist Subodh Gupta transforms familiar household objects, such as stainless steel and brass vessels often found in India, into wondrous structures. The Freer|Sackler features the artist’s monumental installation “Terminal.” Composed of towers of brass containers connected by an intricate web of thread, “Terminal” converts the readymade into a glimmering landscape. Ranging 1–15 feet tall, the spires recall architectural features found on religious structures such as churches, temples and mosques.


The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museums of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler.

The Freer|Sackler is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, which is dedicated to the increase and diffusion of knowledge.

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