Individual Media Tours for the Reopening of the Peacock Room

August 26, 2022


WHAT: Individually scheduled press tours for the reopening of the Peacock Room
WHEN: Open to the public Sept. 3
WHERE: Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, Freer Gallery of Art 1050 Independence Ave. S.W.
WHO: Diana Greenwold, Lunder Curator of American Art
Ellen Chase and Jenifer Bosworth, conservators

James McNeill Whistler’s masterpiece, the Peacock Room, has been closed to the public since June 1 and undergoing conservation for the first time in 30 years. As part of the National Museum of Asian Art’s centennial celebration, this installation of “The Peacock Room comes to America” presents the space as museum founder Charles Lang Freer used it. Reopening Sept. 3, the room will appear as it did when Freer installed his own ceramics collection on the walls in his home in Detroit. The works on view are a conglomeration of objects from Syria, Iran, Korea, China and Japan. The display will also feature a vase from the Pewabic pottery in Detroit, the only contemporary American decorative art that Freer included in his bequest to the Smithsonian.

Whistler’s extravagant interior has been on permanent display since the Freer Gallery of Art opened in 1923. Originally the dining room of Whistler’s patron Frederick Leyland, the Peacock Room traveled from London to Detroit before finding its ultimate home in Freer’s purpose-built museum on the National Mall. For Freer, the room embodied his belief that “all works of art go together, whatever their period.” In the Peacock Room, artists and scholars gathered to examine Freer’s ceramics and to seek out unexpected resonances across cultures and eras. Visitors today are invited into this captivating environment to do the same.

“The Peacock Room Comes to America” reconstructs Freer’s groupings based on 1908 photographs of Freer’s home. The National Museum of Asian Art’s staff painstakingly studied these images and cross-referenced them with Freer’s collection to present the collector’s objects in this majestic space.

The Peacock Room has undergone two large-scale conservation projects during its time in Washington, D.C., first in the 1940s and then in the early 1990s. As one of the museum’s most visited spaces, this remarkable room has accrued its share of wear and tear since its last treatment. The current project has focused on cleaning all of the painted and gilded surfaces and on stabilizing the shutters, which are occasionally opened to visitors so they can experience the space in daylight.

Learn from conservators Ellen Chase and Jenifer Bosworth in the Peacock Room blog series.

Note to editors: Members of the media can contact Jennifer Mitchell at for more information and editorial images or to schedule a time to speak with museum staff and tour the exhibition.

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