Renovations Result in Revitalized Galleries and Upgraded Technologies

The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, one of the two national museums of Asian art, has been closed since January 2016 to have its galleries revitalized, the exhibition of its collections reimagined and its infrastructure and technological systems upgraded. The Freer, together with its sister museum, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, will reopen with fanfare Oct. 14 as the place “Where Asia Meets America”—two galleries, one destination.

The renovation of the Freer, the Smithsonian’s first art museum, which opened in 1923, had several major goals:

  • Refresh gallery spaces to evoke founder Charles Lang Freer’s original aesthetic vision, remove carpeting and restore original terrazzo floors, install marble baseboards, refinish architectural details and preserve the use of natural light while incorporating state-of-the-art standards for the display and preservation of the collection.
  • Allow the museum’s director and curators to reinvision how the collections are exhibited, how the museum’s narrative is told, and how it relates to a 21st-century audience.
  • Update and upgrade technical capabilities of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium for a future seasons of performances, films and lectures with state-of-the-art lighting, audio and video systems and a refurbished interior.
  • Upgrade space use in storage and conservation areas to improve the preservation and scientific study of rare art and artifacts.
  • Clean, repair and restore the granite building exterior and other exterior architectural elements.
  • Install building-wide Wi-Fi for improved digital access.

The Sackler Gallery, which is connected to the Freer through underground galleries and corridors, closed July 10. The Sackler will also feature newly installed collections galleries and four new temporary exhibitions, all opening Oct. 14:

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt

The exhibition explores the role and meaning of cats through a selection of works of art from the world-famous Egyptian collections of the Brooklyn Museum. It is on view through Jan. 15, 2018, and is organized by the Brooklyn Museum and supported by Jacqueline Badger Mars and Mars Petcare.

Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia

Buddhism holds a rich and diverse history spanning more than 2,500 years. This exhibition reveals how art and place are central to Buddhist understanding and teachings. The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation is the exhibition’s lead sponsor. This project received Federal support from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

Resound: Bells of Ancient China

The exhibition will feature more than 60 bells and noisemakers that span the entire length of the Chinese Bronze Age (ca. 1800 B.C.–9 A.D.) and explore the development of this important musical tradition.

Subodh Gupta: Terminal

For the grand installation “Terminal,” the artist turns to an architectural feature that dots the horizons of Indian cities. The work is composed of approximately 30 gleaming brass towers that recall the form of spires often adorned with religious symbols and installed on top of mosques, temples and churches. This exhibition is sponsored by Altria Group. Additional funding is provided by the Endowment for Contemporary Asian Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The exhibition appears courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Inside the buildings, visitors will experience the newly reimagined galleries and specially programmed in-gallery experiences. The wayfinding in both museums has been redesigned so that the buildings are more uniformly connected and provide a cohesive visitor experience.

“This is a wonderful moment for the Freer and Sackler after several years of renovations,” said Julian Raby, director of Freer and Sackler Galleries. “I am excited to finally open the doors to the public and reintroduce our visitors to the museum. I’m also thrilled to be able to mark the reopening with such an ambitious program of events and performances.”

The reopening of both the Freer and Sackler will be marked with a grand outdoor weekend festival, free to the public that begins at 5 p.m. Oct. 14. The grounds of the Freer and Sackler will be transformed into a vibrant marketplace, complete with food stalls, live music and performances. A specially commissioned 12-minute computer generated video, “A Perfect Harmony,” will see the facade of the Freer become a vast canvas for a projection-mapping event with five performances on Saturday evening.

About the Freer and Sackler Galleries

Founded in 1923, the Freer Gallery of Art was the Smithsonian’s first art museum, and it was joined by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 1987. Together they have long been known for preserving and sharing the treasures of Asia, making inspiring connections between Asia, America and the world. Today, the museum offers exhibitions that highlight the compelling beauty of ancient worlds as well as the vitality of contemporary Asian artists. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the wonders of Asian art in the Freer|Sackler galleries and online.

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.