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Future Exhibitions


Nasta‛liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy

September 13, 2014–March 22, 2015
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Nasta‛liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy is the first exhibition of its kind to focus on nasta‛liq, a calligraphic script that developed in the fourteenth century in Iran and remains one of the most expressive forms of aesthetic refinement in Persian culture to this day. More than twenty works ranging in date from 1400 to 1600, the height of nasta‛liq’s development, tell the story of the script’s transformation from a simple conveyer of the written word to an artistic form of its own. The narrative thread emphasizes the achievements of four of the greatest master calligraphers—Mir Ali Tabrizi, Sultan Ali Mashhadi, Mir Ali Haravi, and Mir Imad Hasani—whose manuscripts and individual folios are still appreciated not only for their content but also for their technical virtuosity and visual quality.

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Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips

October 11, 2014–June 7, 2015
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Wendell Phillips, a young paleontologist and geologist, headed one of the largest archaeological expeditions to remote South Arabia (present-day Yemen) from 1949 to 1951. Accompanied by some of the leading scholars, scientists, and technicians of the day, Phillips was on a quest to uncover two ancient cities—Timna, the capital of the once-prosperous Qataban kingdom, and Marib, the reputed home of the legendary Queen of Sheba—that had flourished along the fabled incense road some 2,500 years earlier. Through a selection of unearthed objects as well as film and photography shot by the expedition team, the exhibition highlights Phillips’s key finds, recreates his adventures (and misadventures), and conveys the thrill of discovery on this important great archaeological frontier.


Fine Impressions: Whistler, Freer, and Venice

Opens October 18, 2014
Freer Gallery of Art, ground floor

In 1887, museum founder Charles Lang Freer purchased the entire Second Venice Set, twenty-six atmospheric etchings by James McNeill Whistler. Freer acquired the prints—his first works by Whistler—after his business associate, New York attorney Howard Mansfield, invited him to inspect some especially “fine impressions” of etchings by the artist.

Up to that point, Freer had been uninterested in works by the expatriate American. “Why anyone in the world should make any fuss over Whistler as an artist” was, he said, beyond him. Viewing Mansfield’s collection changed Freer’s mind. As he later remarked to Mansfield, “My purchasing, I recall, began the day thereafter, and has continued ever since whenever opportunity has offered.”

Freer’s precipitous act marked the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership with Whistler. The mutually beneficial relationship between collector and artist eventually led to the founding of the Freer Gallery, today the world’s largest and finest repository of works by Whistler.

The Second Venice Set is well known within Whistler’s oeuvre. It has most frequently been exhibited to highlight changes in Whistler’s style and to underscore the popularity of Venice as a tourist destination and artistic subject. Fine Impressions, however, tells the story from Freer’s perspective: how his epiphany in Mansfield’s apartment and his acquisition of the Second Venice Set catalyzed a shift in taste and came to shape his legacy as a connoisseur and collector.


Style in Chinese Landscape Painting: The Yuan Legacy

November 22, 2014–May 31, 2015
Freer Gallery of Art

A tradition dating to the third century, landscape painting is one of the most outstanding achievements of Chinese culture. Key styles in this genre emerged during the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) and are still followed today. This exhibition presents six important styles, including five new ones developed by individual Yuan masters and a continuation of an earlier style. While surviving works from the Yuan are rare, whenever possible, the exhibition includes the earliest work in the museum collection together with later examples tracing the distinct characteristics and evolution of each style.

The Yuan dynasty came to power through Mongol military conquest, and many Song dynasty loyalists in southern China resisted serving the foreign regime. Out of this rebellious region, a class of scholar-painters emerged that created art not for rulers or leaders, but mainly for themselves and for each other. These literati championed different ideals than their predecessors, valuing personal and philosophical expression rather than needs and tastes of the imperial court.

Five masters in particular, all southern Chinese literati, created unique styles that had a profound impact on the centuries of Chinese landscape painting to follow: Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322), Huang Gongwang (1269–1354), Wu Zhen (1280–1354), Ni Zan (1301/06– 1374), and Wang Meng (ca. 1308–1385).

This exhibition is the second in a series of two exhibitions—Style in Chinese Landscape Painting: The Song Dynasty is on view through October 26—marking the first time in thirty years a U.S. museum has looked purely at style in Chinese landscape painting. The Freer Gallery possesses one of the most important collections of Chinese painting outside Asia, with many of its works from the Song and Yuan dynasties holding near-iconic status. Many of these works are viewable on the museums’ web resource Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting Collection.


The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia

November 22, 2014–May 31, 2015
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Travel shapes how we perceive the world. Long after a trip has ended, images made to guide, track, and represent travelers and their journeys continue to influence our views of other cultures and our own cultural identities. Featuring more than 100 works created over the past five centuries, The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia provides glimpses of travels across the Asian continent, from pilgrimages and research trips to expeditions for trade and tourism.

Juxtaposing East Asian scrolls, Japanese woodblock prints, and contemporary photography with maps, archaeological drawings, and souvenirs, The Traveler’s Eye invites viewers to look more closely at these seemingly straightforward images. Beneath the surface, they will discover the deliberate choices made by artists representing journeys and travelers seeking to remember them.

The exhibition moves through a provocative series of themes, ranging from Edo-period views of Japan’s famed Tokaido Road to Raghubir Singh’s photographic essay on the ubiquitous Ambassador car in India. All of the works shed light on particular cultural histories of travel throughout Asia.

The Traveler’s Eye concludes with three vignettes on Western travelers who recorded and remembered Asia during the last century: German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld in central Asia, American collector (and museum founder) Charles Lang Freer in China, and the many travelers worldwide who shared memories with mass-produced, hand-colored postcards.


Zen, Tea, and Chinese Art in Medieval Japan

December 13, 2014–June 14, 2015
Freer Gallery of Art

Zen Buddhism, tea, and ink painting—well-known expressions of Japanese culture—have their roots in Chinese arts and ideas brought to medieval Japan from the late twelfth to the sixteenth century. Devout Japanese and Chinese Buddhist monks brought the teachings of Chan Buddhism to Japan, where it was known as Zen Buddhism, and attracted the patronage of powerful warriors who ruled Japan as shoguns from 1192 to 1867. Prestigious Chinese art collected by Zen monasteries and their ruling-class patrons introduced new techniques, styles, and aesthetic ideas, transforming Japanese artistic expression. By the sixteenth century, arts and customs from Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasty China had been assimilated into Japanese culture, emerging as Japanese practices such as chanoyu, the art of tea. In this exhibition, Chinese and Japanese paintings, lacquer ware, and ceramics illuminate this remarkable period of cultural contact and synthesis.


Oribe Ware: Color and Pattern Come to Japanese Ceramics

December 13, 2014–June 14, 2015
Freer Gallery of Art

Invented in Japan in 1605, Oribe ware introduced vivid pattern and color to a ceramics tradition that had previously favored somber, monochrome designs. Oribe ware vessels were used primarily for serving food and drinking tea, and their sprightly patterns with glossy black or brilliant green glazes made them a shimmering addition to 17th-century dining trays and tearooms. A major technological advance in ceramics—the Motoyashiki multi-chamber climbing kiln, which allowed potters to melt glazes to dazzling translucency—made this radically new appearance possible. This exhibition highlights the best selections of Oribe ware in the Freer’s collection, including two new acquisitions on view for the first time.


Chinese Ceramics: 13th–14th Century

December 20, 2014—December 2015
Freer Gallery of Art

Ceramic production during the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) reflects the strength of the international market demand for Chinese wares. Notably, celadon-glazed vessels from Longquan competed with porcelain objects from Jingdezhen, painted with innovative decoration in cobalt pigment. A dozen Chinese ceramics from the Freer collection show highlights of Yuan ceramic styles and complement the exhibition Style in Chinese Landscape Painting: The Yuan Legacy.


Filthy Lucre: Stories of Art and Money

May 16, 2015–November 29, 2016
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Filthy Lucre, an immersive interior by painter Darren Waterston, reinterprets James McNeill Whistler’s famed Peacock Room as a resplendent ruin, an aesthetic space that is literally overburdened by its own excesses—of materials, history, and creativity. Like the original Peacock Room, Filthy Lucre invites viewers to consider the complex relationships among art, money, and the passage of time.

Current Exhibitions

Perspectives: Chiharu Shiota
August 30
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