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Freer and Sackler Galleries Celebrate "Falnama: The Book of Omens" with Free Public Programs

Media only: Deborah Galyan 202.633.0504; Ellie Reynolds, 202.633.0521
Public only: 202.633.1000

The Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler galleries will offer a series of public programs and events to celebrate the exhibition "Falnama: The Book of Omens," on view Oct. 24 through Jan. 24, 2010. The exhibition is the first to showcase a group of rare and unusual illustrated manuscripts called the Falnama, once used to explore the unknown in 16th- and 17th-century Iran and Turkey. Related programs feature concerts by Persian classical musician Bahman Panahi and The New Juilliard Ensemble, a unique film depicting the Islamic musical drama tradition known as the Ta'ziyeh and art-making workshops for children and adults.

Persian Classical Music: Bahman Panahi, Tar and Sehtar
Paris-based virtuoso Bahman Panahi will perform Persian classical music that draws from an improvisational tradition related to the ragas of India Friday, Oct. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in the Meyer Auditorium. A trained calligrapher as well as musician, Panahi has appeared in concerts and workshops throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. His first American tour earlier this year included performances at Harvard University and Carnegie Hall. Visitors are invited to attend a pre-concert tour of the Arts of the Islamic World gallery at 6:45 p.m. in the Freer. Panahi will explore relationships between Iranian music and calligraphy in two informal lecture-demonstrations Saturday, Oct. 31, and Sunday, Nov. 1, at 3 p.m. in Sackler Sublevel 1.

Falnama Talk and Tour
Join Massumeh Farhad, chief curator and curator of Islamic art, for a tour of "Falnama: The Book of Omens" Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 12 p.m. in the Sackler Gallery. Explore how the remarkable images and texts of the Falnama shed light on the art and culture of Safavid Iran and Ottoman Turkey.

ImaginAsia Family Program: "Seeing the Unseen"
What if you had a book that could help you decide if today is a good day for riding your bike or making a big decision? Royalty and commoners alike in Turkey and Iran asked similar questions and consulted the Falnama for advice and predictions about the future. In "Seeing the Unseen," families will use an activity book to examine lavishly illustrated pages from the Falnama for clues, omens and warnings and create an amulet for protection and prosperity. Workshops will run Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 31 through Nov. 22, at 2 p.m. in Sackler Sublevel 2. No reservations required. Limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Sessions for groups larger than eight can be reserved in advance for Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. by e-mailing

Divination and Beyond: The New Juilliard Ensemble
On Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Meyer Auditorium, The Juilliard School's contemporary music ensemble performs works inspired by Asian divination practices and chance operations. The program features Toshi Ichiyanagi's "Sapporo"; John Cage's "Aria," with solos from "Concert"; James Tenney's "In the Aeolian Mode"; and Henry Cowell's "26 Simultaneous Mosaics." The ensemble appears regularly at the Lincoln Center Festival and the Museum of Modern Art's Summergarden Festival and tours extensively abroad. Founder and conductor Joel Sachs is also artistic director of the Juilliard's "Focus! Festival," and co-director of the renowned new-music ensemble Continuum.

Adult Workshop: "Hopes for the Future"
What does the future hold? Explore the splendid illustrations of the Falnama (Book of Omens), listen to a gallery talk and give creative expression to your own hopes for the future by crafting a book of aspirations for 2010 with award-winning, mixed-media artist Jessica Braiterman. No experience necessary. Workshops will run Saturdays, Dec. 12 and Jan. 9, at 1 p.m. in the Education Classroom, Sackler Sublevel 2. Registration is required (space is limited and registration is limited to one date only). E-mail for reservation information.

Special Film Presentation: Abbas Kiarostami's "Ta'ziyeh/The Spectators"
Abbas Kiarostami, one of Iran's most famous filmmakers, convincingly and triumphantly brings the powerful experience of communal, ritual theater into the digital age with his groundbreaking film/video installation "Ta'ziyeh/The Spectators." The film explores the Ta'ziyeh, a unique form of Islamic musical drama performed, often by ordinary citizens, in towns and villages across Iran. It dramatizes the famous 680 A.D. Battle of Kerbala, in which Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussain, was killed in battle along with his followers. Part theater, part religious ritual, it offers its audience the cathartic experience of collectively expressing their sorrow at the tragic events unfolding before them. With this multiscreen video installation, Kiarostami invites the audience to participate in the ritual in a thoroughly unique way. One screen shows a performance of the Ta'ziyeh, while two much larger screens flanking it show the faces of audience members at the performance (segregated, according to custom, by gender).Like the visitors to the film itself, they at first chat and relax before the show, but as the tragic play progresses, their emotions become heartbreakingly intense(2003, 80 min.). The event will take place on Saturday, Jan. 23 through Sunday, Jan. 24 in Sackler Sublevel 1. Visit the Freer and Sackler Web site for updates on event dates and times.

Iranian Film Festival 2010
The Freer's 14th annual festival of Iranian films will present five new films in addition to the special presentation of Kiarostami's "Ta'ziyeh/The Spectators." Films will be shown Fridays and Sundays from Jan. 8 through Feb. 21 in the Meyer Auditorium. Visit the Freer and Sackler Web site for film descriptions and screening times.

Free walk-in tours for "Falnama: The Book of Omens" will be held daily at 1 p.m. beginning Nov. 7, except on Wednesdays and federal holidays. There will be no walk-in tours on Dec. 12 or Jan. 9 due to other exhibition-related programming. Walk-in tours meet at the Sackler information desk.Tours are subject to cancellation and may not be offered on some days.For up-to-date tour listings and additional information, visit the Freer and Sackler Web site: Reserved group tours require four weeks in advance written notice and are subject to availability. For group tour information and online request form, visit or call (202) 633.1012.

"Falnama: The Book of Omens" is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The exhibition has been made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donor, The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund and the Hagop Kevorkian Fund.Other contributors include Mr. and Mrs. Farhad Ebrahimi, the Smithsonian Scholarly Studies Program, The Barakat Trust, The Packard Humanities Institute and Turkish Airlines. The catalog was underwritten by Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute.

The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are from 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, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or visit



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