Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Details

Director: Julian Raby
Full-time employees: approx.145 (combined figure for Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery)
Objects in the collection: 8,818
Public opening: Sept. 28, 1987

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the neighboring Freer Gallery of Art together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States. As part of the Smithsonian Institution the galleries both are dedicated to advancing public knowledge about the arts and cultures of Asia through exhibitions, publications, research and education. The Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., on the National Mall in Washington, is open every day except Dec. 25. Hours are from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., and admission is free.


Founded to share the historical focus of its sister museum, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Sackler Gallery has increased the range of Asian art activities at the Smithsonian, developed an active program of international loan exhibitions and embraced contemporary art and a wide range of media and artistic practices.

The gallery opened in 1987 to house a gift of some 1,000 works of Asian art from Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), a research physician and medical publisher from New York City. Among the highlights of his gift were early Chinese bronzes and jades, Chinese paintings and lacquer wares, ancient Near Eastern ceramics and metal wares, and sculpture from South and Southeast Asia. Sackler also gave $4 million toward gallery construction.

Since 1987, the gallery’s collections have expanded through purchases and gifts to include an important assemblage of the arts of the Persian book from the 11th to the 19th centuries; 19th- and 20th-century Japanese prints and contemporary porcelain; Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and South Asian painting; and sculpture and ceramics from Japan and South and Southeast Asia.


As part of their educational mandate, the Freer and Sackler galleries present a full schedule of public events, including films, lectures, symposia, concerts, book readings and discussions. Public tours are offered daily except Wednesdays and public holidays and are subject to docent availability. Many of the programs are enhanced through activity guides, program notes, brochures and other publications. There are special activities for children and families, and workshops to assist teachers incorporating Asian art and culture into their curriculum. The newsletter “Asian Art Connections: A Resource for Educators” is sent out in the spring and autumn. A calendar of events is distributed quarterly.


Individuals and corporations are invited to join the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries at membership levels from $1,200 to $10,000. The group provides yearly support for acquisitions and enjoys such benefits as the annual “Friends Day,” monthly curator-led tours, travel and educational programs and shop discounts.


Library The Freer and Sackler galleries house the largest Asian art research library in the United States. Open to the public five days a week (except federal holidays) without appointment, the library collection consists of over 80,000 volumes, including nearly 2,000 rare books. Half the volumes are written and cataloged in Asian languages.

Archives The archives is a manuscript and photograph repository dedicated to furthering the study of Asian and Middle Eastern art and culture, as well as turn-of-the-century American art. The Archives collects, preserves, and makes available documentary materials supporting the holdings and research activities of the Freer and Sackler galleries, which together form the national museum of Asian art. The Archives house more than 140 collections – amounting to over 1000 linear feed of materials dating from the early 19th-century to the present and is open by appointment on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Appointments may be made by calling 202 633-0533.

Conservation and Scientific Research Conservation within the museum began with the hiring of Japanese painting mounters and the establishment of the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio in 1932. This facility remains one of the few in the United States that specializes in the conservation of Asian paintings. The Technical Laboratory was established in 1951 and was the first Smithsonian facility devoted to the use of scientific methods for the study of works of art. Over the years, the work of the Technical Laboratory expanded to include objects, paper and exhibits conservation. The merging of the Technical Laboratory and the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio in 1990 created the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research.

Publications The Freer and Sackler galleries publish books both scholarly and popular as exhibition catalogues and catalogues of the permanent collection, and such ephemera as Asiatica (an annual magazine), exhibit texts and labels, gallery brochures, guides, maps, and a quarterly newsletter. The museum also publishes symposium proceedings, the scholarly monograph series Freer Gallery of Art Occasional Papers, and cosponsors the annual scholarly journal Ars Orientalis with the Department of the History of Art, University of Michigan.

Awards and fellowships The Freer and Sackler galleries welcome scholars at the graduate and post-graduate levels, who may apply for study grants through the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Grants. Additional opportunities for scholarship at the Freer and Sackler include:

  • The $10,000 Shimada Prize for scholarship in the history of East Asian art is given biennially to the author of an outstanding recent publication in the field. The prize is named for Professor Shimada Shujiro (1907-1994), who was an eminent Japanese scholar of East Asian painting. The prize is sponsored by the Freer and Sackler galleries with the Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies in Kyoto, Japan.
  • The Dick Louie Internship, named for the galleries’ late associate director (Richard Louie, 1938-1990), is a six-week museum internship awarded every summer to up to four high-school rising or graduating seniors of Asian descent.
  • The Forbes Fellowship is awarded annually to a promising young scholar for the scientific study of the care, conservation, and protection of works of art.
  • University of Michigan graduate students may apply for Freer Fellowships. Charles Lang Freer bequeathed funds to allow University of Michigan graduate students in art history to spend one or two semesters conducting research with full access to the library, the archives, and the Asian or American art collection in the Freer.


The Sackler Gallery Shop, located on the first level, offers Asian jewelry; antique and contemporary ceramics and textiles; cards, posters and reproductions; recordings, and a wide selection of books for children and adults about the art, culture, history and geography of Asia and other areas related to the Freer collection. The shops also host such special events as opportunities to sample Asian foods and meet and hear readings by authors who have published fiction or non-fiction about Asia. The shop is open daily (except Dec. 25) from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


In 1971, Dr. Sackler and S. Dillon Ripley, then Secretary of the Smithsonian, began discussions that led to Sackler’s donation in 1982. In 1981, Sackler invited Thomas Lawton, who was at that time director of the Freer Gallery, to select Asian works of art from the vast Sackler collections. The group of objects Lawton chose made up Sackler’s inaugural gift, which was exhibited when the gallery opened and has formed the core of many presentations since then.

The Sackler Gallery is part of a large Smithsonian complex, designed by Shepley Bullfinch Richardson and Abbott of Boston, with Jean-Paul Carlhian as principal architect that also includes the National Museum of African Art and the S. Dillon Ripley Center. Construction of the museum, education and research complex and its Enid A. Haupt Garden cost $73.2 million, with half provided by federal funds and half raised from private sources including contributions from 38,000 Smithsonian members. A portion of that cost was applied to construction of the Sackler Gallery, along with Sackler’s gift of $4 million and $1 million each from the governments of Japan and Korea.


The Sackler Gallery is entered through a 4,130-square-foot granite pavilion located in the Haupt Garden. The rest of the 115,000-square-foot structure is built on three sky-lit levels extending 57 feet below ground. The gallery’s 40,905 square feet of public space can be reconfigured to meet special display requirements. The Sackler Gallery is connected by an underground exhibition space to the neighboring Freer Gallery of Art, which opened in 1923.


  • More about the Smithsonian Institution, including the Sackler and Freer galleries:
    Telephone: (202) 633-1000; TTY: (202) 633-5285
  • About the Sackler and Freer galleries:
    Telephone: (202) 633-4880 (Monday-Friday 8:30-5); Fax: (202) 357-4911
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