Sample a Little Bit of Asia at the Freer and Sackler Galleries
September 16, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC, USA – While most of Washington, DC celebrates our nation’s history (think: U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial among other institutions, monuments and museums), a few nonnative gems reside among the capital’s streets. And that’s where the stylishly elegant Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art come in.
Since their inception, this dynamic museum duo has been connected by a similar mission: the display of fantastic Asian art. The two galleries house the impressive collections of art enthusiasts Arthur M. Sackler and Charles Lang Freer, connected by a single underground passageway.
Art buffs can gaze among some of the finest Chinese jades, bronzes, and ceramics, Japanese art, Islamic religious artifacts, and more. And though it largely facilitates the cultivation and conversation of world cultures through art, the Freer Gallery also houses an important collection of nineteenth century American art, including the rather controversial James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room.
This infamous room originally resided in the home of British shipping tycoon Frederick K. Leyland. Initially designed by architect Thomas Jeckyll as a drawing room, the space housed Leyland’s collection of Chinese blue and white porcelain (fitting considering the gallery’s overarching mission). While Leyland was out of town, Whistler redecorated it, titling his creation, “Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room” (which ultimately ended his friendship with a distraught Leyland).
While roaming about these unique collections, visitors can move through the galleries at their own pace. Of course, if you’re looking for an insider’s look into the galleries, docent-led tours are held daily at 10:15am, 11:15am, 12:15pm, 1:15pm, and 2:15pm, beginning in each respective gallery. These hour-long tours are one of the best ways to sample the sheer breadth of the collection.
And though it may be located on the tourist-packed Mall, these two elegant galleries offer a more refined experience than traditional sights (especially when compared to nearby Smithsonian favorites like the National Air and Space Museum and National Gallery of Art). Not to mention the unparalleled rotation of free concerts and lectures, film screenings, and various exhibitions throughout the year.
Plus, we’re always fans of free admission (who isn’t?) and enjoy the refreshing change of pace from the rest of DC. If the tantalizing century-old artworks don’t capture your attention, then the serene gardens and courtyards will—not bad for a day spent among the heart of the city’s tourist hub.
Read more about Freer and Sackler Galleries in our Washington, DC guide.