Home > About Us > News Room > Press Release
November 25, 2012
Allison Peck, 202.633.0447
Amanda Williams, 202.633.0271
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6 PM
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Email PressAsia@si.edu for further details
@FreerSackler, #Sackler25

Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Landmark Week of Events

Asian Art Enthusiasts Descend on D.C. Nov. 28—Dec. 1

In celebration of 25 years of groundbreaking exhibitions, programs and scholarship in Asian art, the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will host a week of public events, welcoming a crowd of international arts and culture aficionados. Visitors can preview an immersive 3-D “cave,” meet their favorite authors at a book fair and attend lectures and performances by distinguished scholars and artists. The week’s centerpiece, the 25th Anniversary Gala, is a fundraiser for the Sackler’s newly-established contemporary art endowment.

A major highlight of the week’s events is the North American premiere of “Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang,” an immersive digital experience. The installation will be located in a heated tent in the adjacent Moongate Garden Dec. 1–Dec. 9. Using state-of-the-art technology, including 3D modeling, animations and video, the installation recreates one of the famous Buddhist cave temples of Dunhuang, China—a UNESCO World Heritage Site currently closed to the public to ensure its preservation.

Other highlights include a pyrotechnic “explosion event” by Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang, in partnership with the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies program; a lecture by Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA and former Freer|Sackler curator, a panel with contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing, a performance by popular Arab vocalist Karima Skalli; and the North American premiere of the exhibition “Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The week concludes with the Sackler’s 25th birthday celebration and Asian Art & Culture Book Fair Saturday, Dec. 1, featuring free cupcakes, a book-making art activity for families, and author talks and book signings by writers such as Azar Nafisi, Mary McFadden, Nurhan Atasoy, Helen Philon, and Sanjay Patel.

Media are invited to tour “Pure Land” and learn about the future of contemporary Asian art at a preview event on Nov. 27, 6–8:30 p.m.

A full listing of events and exhibitions follows:


Making History: Contemporary Art and the Middle East

Wednesday, Nov. 28; 7 p.m.
Freer, Meyer Auditorium
Glenn Lowry, former curator of Islamic art at the Freer and Sackler galleries and now director of the Museum of Modern Art, shares a unique perspective on the emergence of contemporary Middle Eastern art. Generously supported by the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Fund for Contemporary Iranian Art.


Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang

Saturday, Dec. 1—Sunday Dec. 9., 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; last entry at 5:15 p.m.
Sackler, Haupt Garden
“Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang” is an immersive digital experience of a Chinese Buddhist cave, on view for the first time in North America. Using 3D modeling, animations, video and recoloring, the installation recreates one of the famous Buddhist cave temples of Dunhuang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is closed to visitors to ensure its preservation. Colorful murals come alive with floating figures, performing musicians and a looming three-dimensional Buddha sculpture, allowing visitors to step inside a hyper-real tour of one of the world’s most important treasures. “Pure Land” is a project of the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Center of the City University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with the ALIVE project and Dunhuang Academy.

Fifteen-minute timed tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. every day in the Sackler Pavilion.

GALA CELEBRATION (media by invitation only*)

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery 25th Anniversary Gala and Club Caravan

Thursday, Nov. 29; 6:30 p.m.—12 p.m.
Guests from around the world will come to Washington to celebrate the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s first quarter century. The evening includes a spectacular pan-Asian themed array of cocktails, dinner and dancing, including performances by provocative Korean musician Amadeus Leopold (formerly known as Hahn-Bin) and a signature dessert by celebrity Indian-American chef Floyd Cardoz. The Silk Road Society, the Freer and Sackler’s young professional members, will host the event’s late-night party, “Club Caravan.” A full weekend of events for Patrons will follow the Gala and all proceeds will support an endowment for contemporary Asian art at the Sackler.
*To request access, please contact PressAsia@si.edu


“Explosion Event” by Cai Guo-Qiang

Friday, Nov. 30; 3 p.m.
Freer, outside the north entrance
Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang presents one of his remarkable “explosion events,” a thrilling combination of pyrotechnics, artistry and optical illusion in four dimensions, in front of the Freer’s north entrance near the National Mall. A 40-foot pine tree erupts in a shimmer of fireworks as if in a “tree lighting,” followed by a cascade of black ink-like smoke that mimics traditional Chinese brush drawings. The black tree-shaped cloud of smoke drifting through the air creates a spectral scene of two trees: one real, one imaginary. This site-specific, one-time only commission is presented in conjunction with Art in Embassies, an office of the U.S. Department of State, to celebrate the program’s 50th anniversary and the Sackler’s 25th.


Phoenixes and Beyond: A Conversation with Xu Bing

Saturday, Dec. 1; 10:30 a.m.
Freer, Meyer Auditorium
Join contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing in conversation with Jane Debevoise, Chair of the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, and Carol Huh, assistant curator of Contemporary Asian Art at the Freer|Sackler, as they discuss Xu’s recent projects from calligraphy and monumental public art to time-based digital media works.


Sackler 25th Birthday Celebration with cake and Asian Art & Culture Book Fair

Saturday, Dec. 1; 1–5 p.m.
Sackler and S. Dillon Ripley Center
Celebrate the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s 25th anniversary with free cupcakes, a book-making activity for families, and an Asian art and culture book fair featuring a variety of subjects and countries, including fiction, current events and policy, history, art and architecture, Asian cuisine and children’s literature. Those in attendance to sign their books include bestselling authors Azar Nafisi, Mary McFadden, Nurhan Atasoy, Helen Philon and Sanjay Patel. Books will be available for purchase. Cupcakes provided by Georgetown Cupcake, and available while supplies last.


Classical Arab and Andalusian Music: Vocalist Karima Skalli, with the Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble

Saturday, Dec. 1; 7:30 p.m.
Freer, Meyer Auditorium
Hear one of the great voices of Arab classical music, a tradition steeped in rarified Arabic poetry and the sophisticated modes of Middle Eastern music. Sometimes called the next great diva of Arab music, Skalli has performed at the annual Festival and Conference of Arab Music, held at the Cairo Opera House; the International Festival of Sacred Music, in Morocco; and the Festivals Beiteddine in Lebanon. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition “Roads of Arabia: Archeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” a highlight of the Sackler’s 25th anniversary year.


Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Through Feb. 24, 2013
From haunting stone steles to luxurious gold masks and imposing monumental statues, Roads of Arabia offers a glimpse into the untold story of Saudi Arabia’s cultural past. The groundbreaking exhibition includes more than 280 objects, ranging in date from Arabia’s prehistory to the early twentieth century. All of these objects are making their debut appearance in North America.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except 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, including other special programs to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sackler Gallery in 2012, visit www.asia.si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.


the freer and sackler galleries

Contact us

Tel: 202.633.0271
Fax: 202.633.0046

Office of Marketing and Communications
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
PO Box 37012, MRC 707
Washington, DC 20013-7012

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.