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Asian art galleries in US reopen

China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-16 07:50

Galleries revitalized, exhibitions re-imagined and infrastructure upgraded.

Two major Asian art establishments in Washington DC just reopened following a nearly two-year renovation.

Freer Gallery of Art, together with its adjacent sister museum, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, both part of the Smithsonian national museums and host to some of the best Asian art collections in the world, launched a weeklong reopening celebration from Saturday night.

"I am excited to finally open the doors to the public and reintroduce our visitors to the museum," says Julian Raby, director of Freer and Sackler galleries.

"What began as a prosaic need to update mechanical systems in the Freer allowed us to reinstate this building to Freer's pristine vision."

"The Sackler is as playful, as theatrical, as the Freer is calm and contemplative. One provides a moment of hush, the other a rush," he notes, adding the renovated galleries "will encourage you to indulge in 'slow looking', to lose yourself in a reverie ... to feel yourself refreshed like the doe at the fountain".

In his reopening speech, Raby also highlighted the museums' efforts to promote a shared sense of beauty across different peoples and build up connections between Asia, the Americas and the world.

Among the packed reopening programs are a grand outdoor weekend IlluminAsia festival of food, music and performance, a presentation of an animated artwork called A Perfect Harmony, which will transform the Freer's facade into a vast canvas, as well as several long-anticipated art showcases with themes spanning from cats in ancient Egypt to bells in ancient China.

A major exhibition, titled Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia, will take visitors to linger at a Sri Lankan stupa, travel with an 8th century Korean monk, and discover remarkable Buddhist artworks from China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan.

"Here we can stand in awe at the varied imagination of people from another time and another place, and we can, like Freer, realize that for all the differences there was, there is a common urge for and often a shared vision of, beauty," Raby says.

The Freer, founded in 1923 as the first Smithsonian museum to be dedicated to fine arts, was joined by the Sackler in 1987. Together they comprise the two national museums of Asian art in the United States, featuring more than 40,000 Asian artworks.


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