The international standing of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art, primarily rests on their stellar collections of Asian art. As leading institutions in the field, the Freer and Sackler actively seek and consider acquisitions, through both gift and purchase, of Asian works from prehistory to the present. In addition, the Freer is the world’s largest repository of works by the American artist James McNeill Whistler.
The Freer Gallery of Art, established by the gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1906 and opened in 1923, follows the guidelines established in the founding documents that works of art once acquired may not be loaned for exhibition elsewhere. The Freer’s permanent collection of American art may not be expanded. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, opened in 1987 with major gifts from the collection of Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, has no such restrictions.
In general, acquisitions for the Freer have focused on individual objects of singular importance, works of art that relate closely to existing areas of distinction, or groups of objects that meet the high aesthetic standards, historical importance, and quality that have defined the Freer’s collection since its founding gift. Acquisitions for the Sackler have focused primarily on gifts and occasional purchases of important collections.
The Freer and Sackler follow international protocols with regard to establishing the provenance of both archaeological and historical works of art.