Media only: Megan Krefting 202-633-0271; kreftingm@si.edu

Nov. 24, 2015

The Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art and Mitsubishi Corp. announced a partnership to expand collaboration and communication between Japanese and American audiences and scholars. Mitsubishi Corp. will donate $1 million to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery to support the museums’ Japanese initiatives through 2020, marking the first time that a private corporation has provided a sponsorship for exhibitions and staffing to the galleries.

The donation comes during the Sackler’s landmark exhibition, “Sōtatsu: Making Waves,” on view until Jan. 31, 2016. It is the first exhibition outside Japan to feature Tawaraya Sōtatsu (d. circa 1640), one of the most influential yet elusive figures in the history of Japanese visual culture.

The donation will support three principal areas: outreach to Japanese audiences—both publicly and the scholarly community—through enhanced Web communication; exhibitions that emphasize collaboration between specialists in both nations, including a spring 2017 exhibition on Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806); and enhanced bilingual staffing in administrative areas.

With this partnership, the Freer and Sackler galleries and Mitsubishi Corp. aim to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Japan, as well as increase the awareness of Japanese culture abroad. The donation recognizes the Freer’s historic role in fostering bilateral collaboration since the early 20th century and promoting Japanese art and culture.

Mitsubishi Corp. is Japan’s largest general trading company with more than 200 bases of operations in approximately 80 countries worldwide. The donation aligns with Mitsubishi Corp.’s Three Corporate Principles and Code of Conduct, which serve as the business’s core guiding philosophy.


The Freer Gallery of Art is world renowned for its Japanese collection, which exemplifies the influence of Japanese art on Western artists and embodies the spirit of collaboration between the two nations. Built from foundational works assembled by its founder Charles Lang Freer (1854–1919) during extensive trips to Japan, the holdings span four millennia and include more than 2,000 Japanese works from Freer’s original gift to the Smithsonian. The collection continues to grow with noted strengths in the rinpa style, ukiyo-e art of the floating world and Buddhist art. Freer’s most famous Japanese acquisition is a pair of screens depicting highly stylized roiling waves and pine-studded islands by Sōtatsu entitled “Waves at Matsushima.” Acquired in 1906, it is considered the artist’s finest work and is currently featured alongside other masterworks in “Sōtatsu: Making Waves.”

Other treasures include the fierce and majestic “Thunder God” by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), a masterpiece from the artist’s final years and one of more than 40 important Hokusai paintings in the collection, the largest body of Hokusai paintings in the world. Also held in trust is an exceptionally rare seventh-century gilt bronze statue representing the Buddha at birth; it is the finest example in the West and equaled by one other of its kind in Japan.


The Freer Gallery of Art opened in 1923 as the Smithsonian’s first art museum and the first institution in the U.S. dedicated to Asian art and culture. The adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, founded in 1987, allows for greater scope in acquisitions and international exhibitions, including groundbreaking Japanese art exhibitions.

The Freer and Sackler galleries are home to more than 40,000 objects, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They are part of the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums and considered the premier venues in the nation for showcasing Asia’s rich artistic and cultural legacy. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit asia.si.edu or follow twitter.com/freersackler or facebook.com/freersackler. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.