September 25, 2017
An extraordinary nighttime video projection on the façade of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, music by the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble and an outdoor Asian food market are a few highlights of the weekend that marks the opening of the Freer following an 18-month renovation. The Freer’s sister, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, will join the celebration with four brand-new exhibitions opening at the same time.
Festivities begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, with music, food and activities. The museums will remain open Saturday until midnight and then reopen at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The centerpiece of the weekend is the video projection that uses the façade of the Freer as a screen for a 12-minute projection video, “A Perfect Harmony,” about Charles Lang Freer, his belief in the power of art and the history of the museum that bears his name. Commissioned for this occasion by the Smithsonian, “A Perfect Harmony” is the latest work from 59 Productions who produced the video design of the London Olympics in 2012.
Visitors who spend Saturday evening and Sunday (11 a.m.–5 p.m.) in and around the Freer|Sackler (located on the National Mall next to the Castle, near Smithsonian Metro station) will experience live performances, community art projects, musical performances, demonstrations and traditional foods prepared by Washington, D.C.–based Asian and Middle Eastern chefs. The festival, located on the Mall-side plaza of the Freer and on Jefferson Drive, is free, and food at the street market will be available for purchase.
The Silkroad Ensemble is in residence and will perform in various locations throughout the weekend. Winners of a 2016 Grammy Award, the Silkroad Ensemble will feature Chinese winds and strings, percussion, violin, viola and double-bass. Made up of performers and composers from 20 countries, the Silkroad Ensemble was formed by Yo-Yo Ma in 2000. The group has performed all over the world and recorded six albums. They will return to the Freer|Sackler several times between the opening and next May.
The Brooklyn-based live band Red Baraat, whose second studio album (Shruggy Ji, 2013) debuted at No. 1 on Billboard World Music charts, will perform their fusion of jazz, hip-hop, rock and funky go-go both days on the Freer plaza.
Iranian-born singer Mamak Khadem will perform with an eight-piece band blending her roots in the ancient poetry and music of the Persian masters with a bold and revolutionary new sound.
San Francisco-based composer and DJ QBert (aka Richard Quitevis) will perform twice Saturday night, showing off his technical virtuosity and mixing innovation. He emerged out of the Filipino mobile DJ scene in the 1980s and 1990s and was part of a legendary turntable crew that invented the concept of a DJ band.
Alash, from the tiny republic of Tuva in Central Asia, will demonstrate their throat singing, a technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time. The trio are students of kongar-ool Ondar, the renowned master throat singer. Smithsonian Folkways Recording recently released the group’s latest album, Achai.
A shadow-puppet theater from Bali, The Legend of Sutasomo, will offer a rare opportunity to see a Balinese shadow-puppet master, Gusti Sudarta, perform using intricately carved and painted puppets and accompanied by traditional quartet of metal xylophones.
Sri Lankan dance will be performed by Asanga Damask, a dance instructor and founder of a Sri Lankan traditional and folk dance company in the Washington area.
Activities and Exhibitions
In addition to the musical performances, festival goers can make their own art at workshops featuring everything from floating-lotus art and lantern making to Chinese calligraphy and coconut-leaf folding. The crafts activities will be in the Haupt Garden, adjacent to the Freer, and on the Freer plaza.
On Saturday evening, for one night only, the Freer’s Meyer Auditorium will screen Disruption: Video Art from Asia. This selection of video works show how memory and cultural traditions become starting points for richly layered commentaries on the present. Participating artists include Ahmad Ghossein, Shahzia Sikaner, Sun Xun, Moon Kyungwon and Tuan Andrew Nguyen.
Inside the museums, visitors will see the updated galleries of the Freer, four new exhibitions in the Sackler and meet the curators at various times over the weekend. The IlluminAsia Festival is coproduced with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
For a full schedule of activities, visit https://asia.si.edu/reopening/illuminasia.asp.
About the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Founded in 1923, the Freer Gallery of Art was the Smithsonian’s first art museum, and it was joined by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 1987. Together they have long been known for preserving and sharing the treasures of Asia, making inspiring connections between Asia, America and the world. Today, the museum offers exhibitions that highlight the compelling beauty of ancient worlds as well as the vitality of contemporary Asian artists. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the wonders of Asian art in the Freer|Sackler galleries and online.
The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museums of Asian art and contain one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world. The collections feature more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler.
The Freer|Sackler is a part of the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, which is dedicated to the increase and diffusion of knowledge.
For more information about Free|Sackler programs, visit https://asia.si.edu or e-mail publicaffairsAsia@si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, the public may call 202-633-1000.