Journey of Color 

Freer Gallery of Art | throughout the building

Color draws attention, conveys important visual clues, and elicits emotions. At the same time, the perception of color is subjective, and understandings of its meanings and functions are not universal. A color may represent happiness and hope in one culture but anger and destruction in another. One culture may refer to a certain color as observable in nature, while another may not even have a name for it. Color perception can vary not only across cultures but also from person to person.  

Whether pulverizing gold, crushing lapis lazuli, or grinding cochineal insects, artists across Asia have experimented for millennia with a wealth of minerals, bugs, and plants to create eye-catching pigments. Knowledge of substances and techniques traveled across regions and was developed by different communities in innovative ways. Join us on a Journey of Color as we highlight thirty-four objects that reveal how different cultures obtained, produced, and used color to individualize their creations and tell layered, universal stories.


Journey of Color is part of the 2023 programming marking the 100th anniversary of the National Museum of Asian Art’s founding. Learn more about our centennial celebrations. #TheNext100