Q&A: The Silk Road Society

Silk Road Society reception. Photo by Albert Ting.
Silk Road Society reception. Photo by Albert Ting.

The Silk Road Society is the Freer|Sackler’s young professionals membership group. Our members are united by their passion for the wonders of Asian art, as well as a curiosity to explore the Washington, DC, area and meet fellow Asian art lovers. We gather together at least once a month for exclusive events including curator-led tours, previews of special exhibitions, artist studio visits, receptions, embassy tours, and visits to contemporary galleries. A year’s membership costs $150 and can be shared by two members, or a single member can use it to bring one guest to all non-ticketed events.

Earlier this year, Silk Road Society Advisory Board member Albert Ting spoke with A Creative DC about his experience as an SRS member. We’ve excerpted the interview below. Read his thoughts and see his fantastic photos for a sense of what it means to be in the Silk Road Society.

What’s the vision behind the Silk Road Society, and what led you to join? The goal is to gather a group of smart, well-cultured creatives who are interested in exploring classical and contemporary art of Asia and the Middle East, as well as the cultures of the regions the galleries represent. A friend of mine who is a gallery gal invited me to a Silk Road Society event about four years ago, and I was hooked! After living and working in Japan for a brief 2 year stint between 2007 and 2009, I had amassed quite a collection of Japanese ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artwork as well as some antiques that I found during my weekly jaunts through antique shops and festivals held outside shrines and temples throughout Kyoto. Silk Road was my gateway to the Smithsonian’s collection of Japanese art, which I personally find fascinating.

Silk Road Society reception for "Sōtatsu: Making Waves"
Silk Road Society reception for “Sōtatsu: Making Waves”

What’s been the most fulfilling aspect of membership? People attend Silk Road Society events for different reasons. Some people enjoy the social aspect of networking and sharing wine in a gallery setting; other people love the chance to meet face-to-face with artists and curators. For me, as an Advisory Board Member, I find my involvement as a small way to support the art world while having fun discovering new art with a group of friends I have a lot in common with – people who have the desire to learn and see different perspectives of the world, without even having to leave DC!

This past year, we attended exclusive curator-led tours at the Freer|Sackler and at local DC galleries. We went to the Textile Museum and discovered Qing Dynasty China through the lens of John Thomson, and in January, we saw masterpieces of Japanese art in the Freer | Sackler exhibit Sōtatsu: Making Waves. We also participated in cultural events at local embassies around town, including a private tour of the Embassy of Uzbekistan and the Ippakutei Japanese tea house at the Embassy of Japan. The Silk Road Society also sponsors gallery and studio talks in support of local emerging artists, like performance artist and photographer Naoko WowsugiHedieh Ilchi, whose work explores her cultural identity as an Iranian-American immigrant; Linling Lu, whose colorful and large circle paintings have been seen at City Center DC and Hemphill Fine Arts gallery; and Nara Park, a Hamiltonian Gallery fellow and sculptor.

Silk Road Society visit to "Shirin Neshat: Facing History"
Silk Road Society visit to “Shirin Neshat: Facing History”

You just came back from the Society’s Asia Week in New York. What exhibits did you all check out? Asia Week is definitely the highlight of my SRS experience each year! [In March,] a group of Silk Road Society members headed to New York for an exciting array of weekend programs (it was sold-out!). We toured the new Met Breuer (housed in the former location of the Whitney Museum) before it opened to the public, we explored contemporary Japanese art at the Onishi Gallery and the Joan Mirviss Gallery, we viewed lacquerware at the Erik Thomsen Gallery, and we had a private viewing of ancient Chinese treasures at the Gagosian Gallery. A Friend of the Smithsonian graciously hosted a lunch for us at the University Club, and our evening was topped off with a private tour (with an open bar, haha) at Sotheby’s.

Tour of the Japanese Embassy Tea House
Tour of the Japanese Embassy Tea House


Most Instagrammable part of the Freer|Sackler?
That’s a good question. The Freer is closed for renovation through 2017, but the Sackler is still open and has lots of lovely spaces. At the Sackler, I would say it’s the suspended sculpture called “Monkeys Grasp for the Moon,” which follows the museumgoer as they walk down the steps to the inner sanctum. The work is made up of wood pieces, each representing the word “monkey” in a different language, each piece linked to one another forming a chain that reaches all the way to the bottom of the museum.

Interview conducted by Savannah Harris
All photos by Albert Ting | @pootie_ting

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