February 13–July 31, 2016
Located in the dasht-i murghab
, or “plain of the water bird,” in southwestern Iran, Pasargadae was the first capital of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire (circa 540 BCE) and the last resting place of Cyrus the Great. Impressed with its ruins, German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1948) briefly surveyed the site for the first time in 1905. Having completed his PhD thesis on Pasargadae in 1907, he returned in 1923 and 1928 to conduct more extensive excavations. The result was the first map of the site and the identification of its major extant structures. Featuring selections from the Freer|Sackler Archives’ rich holdings of Herzfeld’s drawings, notes, and photographs—among the world’s largest collections of archival materials on Pasargadae—this exhibition illuminates one of the most important sites of the ancient world.
Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan
March 5, 2016–January 29, 2017
Decades of civil unrest nearly destroyed Afghanistan’s vital artistic heritage. Over the past decade, Turquoise Mountain, an organization founded in 2006 at the request of HRH the Prince of Wales and the president of Afghanistan, has transformed the Murad Khani district of Old Kabul from slum conditions into a vibrant cultural and economic center. Dedicated to teaching a new generation of Afghan artisans in woodwork, calligraphy, ceramics, jewelry design, and other crafts, Turquoise Mountain is reviving the nation’s cultural legacy. This exhibition transforms the International Gallery into a visit to Old Kabul. Artisans from Murad Khani demonstrate their work and share their experiences, allowing visitors to appreciate Afghanistan’s rich culture and national pride.
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March 19–September 18, 2016
Born in 1979 in southern Saudi Arabia and trained as a medical doctor, Ahmed Mater has been a practicing artist since the early 1990s, creating works that offer an unparalleled perspective on contemporary Saudi Arabia. Now based in Jeddah, Mater has focused primarily on photography and video since 2010. From abandoned desert cities to the extraordinary transformation of Mecca, Symbolic Cities
presents his visual and aural journeys observing economic and urban change in Saudi Arabia. The exhibition, the first in the United States solely dedicated to Mater, also debuts new works based on his extensive research on Riyadh’s development.
Painting with Words: Gentleman Artists of the Ming Dynasty
April 16–July 24, 2016
Poetry, painting, and calligraphy: Known as the "Three Perfections," these genres were regarded as the ultimate expressions of Chinese literati culture during the Ming dynasty (1369–1644). Members of the Wu School, centered on the affluent city of Suzhou and nearby towns, earned admiration for their interpretations of these creative expressions. Painting with Words
celebrates Wu School works, examining the relationship between their imagery, brushstrokes, and, especially, words. Selections are drawn from the Freer|Sackler—home to one of the best Wu School collections in the country—as well as other museums and collections.
July 9, 2016–January 2, 2017
Chinamania, the craze for Chinese blue-and-white ceramics, swept London in the nineteenth century and still endures in the West. Contemporary artist Walter McConnell, inspired by his travels in China and the kilns as Jindgzhen, interrogates this phenomenon through his reinstallation of Kangxi porcelains similar to those originally displayed in the Peacock Room. The show also includes two monumental ceramic stupas from McConnell’s The Theory of Everything series.