Media only:
Allison Peck    (202) 633-0447;
Miranda Gale  (202) 633-0271;


Media website:


April 8, 2015

“Filthy Lucre,” an immersive interior by painter Darren Waterston, reimagines James McNeill Whistler’s famed Peacock Room, a sumptuous 19th-century dining room, as a magnificent ruin, literally overburdened with its own materials, creativity and tortured history. Opening May 16 at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the room is the centerpiece of “Peacock Room REMIX,” an exhibition that probes both the personal and historical drama behind one of the greatest masterpieces of American art.

In “Filthy Lucre,” a near life-size recreation of Whistler’s aesthetic masterpiece, Waterston transforms almost every detail with images of decay, excess and natural phenomena. Every surface is encrusted with gold or oozing with paint, splintered shelves buckle and tilt and an eerie glow seeps through the shutters. A soundscape by the band BETTY haunts the space.

Opening weekend events include the May 15 opening gala “Birds of a Feather,” co-chaired by Max N. Berry, actress Gillian Anderson and philanthropist Dame Jillian Sackler DBE; a panel on “Stories of Art and Money” May 16 moderated by NPR host Scott Simon and featuring art journalist Georgina Adam; Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden director Melissa Chiu; artists Waterston and Brian Dailey; James Madison University art history professor and catalog author John Ott. Later celebratory happenings include the museum’s sell-out after-hours party, “Asia After Dark: PEACOCKalypse,” June 13 and monthly evening open houses throughout the summer when the Peacock Room shutters are open, with special guests and exclusive access.
“Filthy Lucre” is inspired by both the artistic mastery of the Peacock Room—long regarded as the period’s greatest surviving decorative interior—and the legendary feud over its creation, which pitted Whistler against his patron Frederick Leyland in a dispute over money and creative freedom.  “Peacock Room REMIX” is the only chance for visitors to experience Waterston’s creation adjacent to the original Peacock Room, which is a permanent showpiece of the Freer Gallery of Art.

Originally from San Francisco, New York City-based Waterston frequently explores the underside of beauty through his paintings, works on paper and installations. Exhibiting in the U.S. and abroad since the early 1990s, this is his first collaboration with the Smithsonian.

On view through Jan. 2, 2017, the larger exhibition “Peacock Room REMIX” features a changing series of related installations around “Filthy Lucre,” beginning with Whistler’s portraits of the Leyland family and Waterston’s preparatory studies for “Filthy Lucre.” Also on view will be the inspiration for Waterston’s title, a vicious caricature Whistler painted of Leyland called “The Gold Scab: Eruption in Frilthy Lucre (The Creditor),” on loan from the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco.

The catalog, Darren Waterston: Filthy Lucre (160 pp., 90 pp. color, Skira Rizzoli, ed. Susan Cross, $50, hardcover) features all-new color photographs and reveals the incredible story of the creation of “Filthy Lucre,” the personalities behind the Peacock Room and the influence of financial transactions on artistic relationships—both in Victorian times and the modern art market. It is available for purchase online and at the Sackler museum store.


Opening Gala
Birds of a Feather Gala and Flock Together After Party
Friday, May 15; 7 p.m.–midnight
Guests can join art lovers, philanthropists, diplomats and artists for a sumptuous evening to celebrate American art and a spectacular new work. Guests start their extraordinary evening at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery with a champagne reception and an exclusive preview of “Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s ‘Filthy Lucre,’” on public view for the first time in Washington. The dazzling event continues over dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Guests then “Flock Together” at the after-party and enjoy drinks, dessert and dancing with a special performance by BETTY, the rock band that composed and recorded the mesmerizing soundscape for “Filthy Lucre.” Sponsorship levels and more information can be found online.

Stories of Art and Money
Saturday, May 16; 3:30–5 p.m.
Freer, Meyer Auditorium
To collect art is a pursuit of passion, but—as James McNeill Whistler knew well—it is also a pursuit of status, wealth and cultural influence. What is art worth? Who determines its value? And how does art’s commercial value affect its socialvalue? Comprising collectors, artists, scholars and market experts, this moderated discussion explores how art acquires both of these types of value and how they have transformed the nature of art today. The diverse panel focuses on the complex relationship between art and patronage and the latter’s influence throughout art history.

Discussion and Performance
The Symphonic Landscape: Merging Art and Music in “Filthy Lucre”
Sunday, May 17; 2:30–4 p.m.
Sackler, Level 1
Artist Darren Waterston and members of the band BETTY examine the relationship between art and music and discuss the haunting, ethereal soundscape that Waterston and BETTY created for “Filthy Lucre.” The conversation charts the collaboration and the challenges—both conceptual and logistical—of breathing music into Waterston’s immersive vision of a “resplendent ruin.” Following the conversation, BETTY members Amy Ziff, Elizabeth Ziff and Alyson Palmer give a live musical performance to the accompaniment of their recorded soundscape.


After-hours Events
Third Thursday Open House
Thursday, May 21, June 18 and July 16; 5:30–8 p.m.
Freer and Sackler
Visitors can experience both our latest special exhibition, “Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s‘Filthy Lucre,’” and its inspiration, Whistler’s famous Peacock Room. Guests can take advantage of this rare chance to see the Peacock Room with its shutters open while enjoying art-making activities and curator-led tours. Plus, look out for the band BETTY, which created the soundscape for “Filthy Lucre” and pops up for an evening performance (May 21) and a renegade performance by Museum Hack (June 18).

Asia After Dark: PEACOCKalypse
Saturday, June 13; 8 p.m.–12 a.m.
Freer and Sackler
Guests can don their finest feathers for the first Asia After Dark of 2015, hosted by the Silk Road Society. The after-hours event will flash back to the gilded glamour of Whistler’s Peacock Room and let guests experience the all-new “Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s ‘Filthy Lucre’” in a new light. Visitors are invited to strut through the galleries sporting gold temporary tattoos, take offbeat tours, fashion handmade masterpieces and make fun photo-booth memories. Plus, guests can sip specialty cocktails and shake a tail feather to music by the activist pop rock trio BETTY. Participants must be 21 years old with valid photo ID to attend. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door (credit cards or cash): Free for Silk Road Society members:
“Peacock Room REMIX” is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

Waterston’s installation “Filthy Lucre,” 2013–14, was created by the artist in collaboration with MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass.

The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Ave. S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit or follow or For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.