Schedule a free online tour for your group of ten or more adults. These live, interactive tours feature high-resolution images of artworks and provide virtual visitors an opportunity to engage in conversation with the museum’s docents. The tours are thematic explorations of both the museum’s permanent collections and special exhibitions. Using the online meeting platform Zoom, participants have the opportunity to examine and respond to exceptional artworks. These tours for adults are approximately one hour long and can also accommodate children. To schedule your adult group, please use the online reservation form. All online tours must be scheduled at least four weeks in advance.
Online tours for adults are offered in the following languages by request: English, Cantonese, French, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin.
Fashioning an Empire
Virtually visit the new exhibition Fashioning an Empire: Safavid Textiles from the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. View extraordinary seventeenth-century textiles, full-length portrait paintings from the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha and beautiful illustrated manuscript folios from our collections.
One of our docents will share the art and culture of Safavid Iran (1501–1722), including textiles with sumptuous surfaces, original designs, and technical sophistication. These luxury textiles played a critical role in the social, cultural, religious, and economic life of Safavid Iran. Used for clothing, furnishing, and movable architecture, fabrics also functioned as important symbols of power and as ubiquitous forms of artistic expression.
The tour begins on March 1 to coincide with Nowruz, the celebration of the Persian New Year.
Art Across Cultures
The creation of art is a universal human endeavor, but what connects artworks across cultures, and what sets them apart? Freer Gallery of Art founder Charles Lang Freer wrote, “For those who have the power to see beauty. . .all works of art go together.” The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is home to more than 44,000 objects, with strengths in arts of the Islamic world; the ancient Near East; South, East, and Southeast Asia; and the United States. On this museum highlights tour, your group will enjoy selections from diverse regions and time periods, exploring commonalities and differences in cultures, aesthetics, and ideas.
Arts of the Islamic World
The arts of the Islamic world encompass a great diversity of traditions far ranging in geography and historical period—from North Africa to India and since the advent of Islam in the late seventh century. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery hold one of the country’s finest collections of arts of the Islamic world, with particular strengths in illustrated manuscripts and ceramics. Explore selections from the museum’s more than 2,200 Islamic art objects in an interactive online tour with one of our docents.
Cherry Blossom Tour
The revered sakura, or cherry blossom, has been celebrated in landscapes, figure paintings, and prints by artists from medieval Japan to Katsushika Hokusai and beyond. Long after the cherry blossoms fall in Washington, DC, you are invited to embrace hanami, the traditional Japanese custom of “flower viewing,” by going cherry blossom viewing in the museum’s Japanese art collections!
Chinese Brush Painting
In traditional Chinese literati culture, painting is esteemed as one of the “Three Perfections” alongside poetry and calligraphy. The Freer Gallery of Art houses one of the most important collections of Chinese painting outside of Asia, including masterworks and representative pieces from diverse genres and categories. In this online tour, participants will view stunning imagery and will examine refined brushwork in a selection of Chinese handscrolls, hanging scrolls, and more.
Chinese Ceramic Art
Ceramics is one of the most significant forms of Chinese art, and Chinese ceramics are among the most prized examples of the art form globally. A Chinese invention, porcelain ceramics are so identified with the country that they are still called “china” in the English-speaking world. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art houses an impressive collection of Chinese ceramics spanning more than four thousand years, from the Neolithic period to the early twentieth century. Highlights include works from renowned kilns and representative pieces from diverse genres and categories. Participants in this online tour will take a close look at beautiful ceramic works, gaining an appreciation of the creativity, artistic expression, and technical mastery of Chinese potters while also learning about the evolution of ceramic art in China.
Eat and Celebrate
Food is an important part of holiday celebrations throughout the world. Just in time for Thanksgiving in the United States, you can join our docents to investigate works of art across Asia to discover how people in the past and the present celebrated through food and rituals. What foods were important and how they were grown or made? How and when were certain foods eaten? What special meaning did some foods have and why? What rituals and foods are still part of cultural traditions that people observe today? Explore food culture and celebrations through art.
Explore Buddhist Art
Encounter the beauty and diversity of Buddhist religious art across Asia on this docent-led online tour. From Buddhism’s origins in India and Nepal to its eventual arrival in Japan and Indonesia, participants can follow the journey of Buddhist art throughout the continent. Featuring works from the exhibit Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia and selections from the permanent collections, participants will receive an introduction to sites of contemplation and sacred power in Buddhist art and practice.
Freer in Egypt
In addition to his travels throughout East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and West Asia, museum founder Charles Lang Freer visited Egypt three times between 1906 and 1909. Freer saw Egyptian art as an important part of his vision of universal beauty. His acquisitions included valuable Biblical manuscripts, glazed ceramics, glass, and other artifacts dating back thousands of years to pharaonic Egypt. Join your docent on this online tour to explore Freer’s vision, retrace his travels, and look carefully at the objects he acquired during his visits.
Hokusai and the Art of Japan
The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is widely recognized for a single image—Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa, an icon of global art—yet he produced thousands of works throughout his long life. Come view the exhibition Hokusai: Mad About Painting, which features works from the world’s largest collection of paintings, sketches, and drawings by Hokusai. Works large and small are on view, from six-panel folding screens and hanging scrolls to paintings and drawings. Together, these works reveal an artistic genius who thought he might finally achieve true mastery in painting—if he lived to the age of 110.
Korean Ceramic Art
The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, house an excellent collection of Korean art, especially ceramics. Charles Lang Freer (1854–1919), founder of the Freer Gallery of Art, acquired nearly 500 Korean art objects. When the museum opened its doors in 1923, Freer’s assembly of Korean art was considered unparalleled in quality and historical scope, and the collection has been expanded over the years.
This docent-led online tour will feature works of art from the museum’s collections of Korean art. The tour will provide participants with the opportunity to take a close look at and gain an appreciation of the beauty of these artworks, including Korean celadon—one of the world’s best-known types of ceramics—while also learning about the history of Korean art and listening to interesting stories of how these works were acquired.
My Iran: Six Women Photographers
This online tour, featuring the 2019–2020 exhibition of the same name, highlights Iranian postrevolutionary women’s photography in the museum collections. Discover nuanced and compelling stories of Iran through the contemporary lenses of Hengameh Golestan, Newsha Tavakolian, Shadi Ghadirian, Malekeh Nayiny, Gohar Dashti, and Mitra Tabrizian.
Nature in the Arts of Asia
How are human relationships to the natural world expressed in art across cultures? How have artists throughout time celebrated the beauty of Asian landscapes? From flora and fauna to sea and sky, explore nature motifs in the museum collections in this online tour. Join our docents for an exploration of the natural world through art—perfect to get you ready for warmer weather and for being outdoors in the summertime.
The Peacock Room and American Art
Freer Gallery of Art founder Charles Lang Freer did not only acquire diverse holdings of Asian art; he also assembled outstanding examples of American art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today, the Freer Gallery of Art houses the world’s largest collection of works by James McNeill Whistler, including his famed Peacock Room. Also represented in the American art collection are Thomas Dewing, Dwight Tryon, and Abbott Thayer, among others. Participants in this tour will compare and contrast American masterpieces with select Asian artworks, as Freer intended audiences to do more than a century ago.