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The Freer and Sackler Galleries Present a Wealth of Chinese Ceramics
Media only: Brenda Kean Tabor, 202.633.0523
Public only: 202.633.1000

December 16, 2004

An unusually large number of Chinese ceramics can be seen this winter in both special exhibitions and long-term installations at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler galleries. Ranging from a Neolithic urn dating from between 2400 and 2000 B.C. to Dehua porcelain featured in a huge site-specific installation by contemporary Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, these objects provide insight into the stunning variety and historical depth of this art form in China.

In the Sackler Gallery:

"Iraq and China: Ceramics, Trade, and Innovation," on view through April 24, 2005, demonstrates the influence of unadorned Chinese white porcelains on late 9th through early 10th-century Iraqi pottery, whose cobalt blue embellishments in turn inspired decoration on later Chinese porcelain.

Cai Guo-Qiang's installation "Traveler: Reflection," on view through July 31, 2005, was inspired by the story of the maritime porcelain trade between Iraq and China. This contemporary interpretation features a century-old fishing vessel resting on a beach of shining white porcelain fragments from Dehua, China.

"Views of Chinese Art from the Indianapolis Museum of Art," on view through March 20, 2005, includes Chinese ceramics from this outstanding museum, and compares them to works in the Freer and Sackler galleries. A spectacular array of Chinese jars with varied glazes shows the evolution of one vessel shape. Other ceramic objects shown here were crafted to imitate jade or bronze objects. A large Jingdezhen ware vase with a nine-peach design from 18th-century China and two large blue-and-white 15th-century Ming dishes with grape motifs are among the 33 ceramics objects on view.

In the Freer Gallery:

"Luxury and Luminosity: Visual Culture and the Ming Court," on view through June 26, 2005, features dazzling, imperially commissioned, white and blue-and-white Ming dynasty (1368–1644) porcelains. Other ceramics on view sport red-and-white, yellow-and-green, yellow-and-blue and turquoise-and-blue color schemes. The use of art to aggrandize the imperial institution and further the rulers' domestic and foreign political agendas is revealed by the objects on display, which are selected from the Freer Gallery's world-famous collection of 15th-century Ming porcelain.

"Black & White Chinese Ceramics from the 10th–14th Centuries," continuing indefinitely, showcases the remarkably rich variety of glossy, black-glazed wares and brilliant white porcelain, as well as eye-catching combinations of both colors on single vessels, created in China during the Song (960–1279) and Yuan (1279–1368) dynasties. Most of the 58 objects on view are tea bowls, wine jars and vases and range from extremely handsome, everyday goods to examples fit for an emperor. Drawing on the strengths of the Freer Gallery's notable collection of Ding, Cizhou, Jian and Jizhou wares, the objects feature modes of decoration including black-on-black painting, black-on-white painting, carving and mold impression.

"The Tea Ceremony as Melting Pot," on view through Feb. 20, 2005, shows how 16th-century Chinese tea-leaf storage jars, water jars and serving bowls joined or replaced the other Chinese ceramics that had been preferred for use in the tea ceremony in Japan. Over time, utensils that had once been novel became established and served as models for Japanese potters to interpret. This small exhibition presents a choice variety of imported tea utensils from the Freer collection, as well as some examples of copies made by Japanese potters.

Other long-term installations in which Chinese ceramics are on view include the Arts of China gallery in the Sackler Gallery and the Luxury Arts of the Silk Route Empires in the connecting link between the Freer and Sackler galleries. The Ancient Chinese Pottery and Bronzes gallery in the Freer features a remarkable burnished and decorated Chinese Neolithic urn and a rare unglazed white ceramic jar from the Shang dynasty.

The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States. The Freer also houses a major collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Dec. 25, and admission is free. Public tours are offered daily, except Wednesdays and public holidays and are subject to docent availability. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 357-1729, or visit the special, exhibition-related section of the galleries' Web site at

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