The Freer Gallery, the Smithsonian’s first art museum, is reopening on October 14 and 15, after a multi year renovation. The Smithsonian is celebrating the reopening of the Freer with IlluminAsia – and everyone is invited!
THE FREER GALLERY IS ONE OF SEVERAL MUSEUMS ON THE MALL
The Smithsonian Institution has numerous museums along the National Mall from the Air and Space Museum to the American History Museum. The Smithsonian also highlights cultures of the world beyond the United States. Visitors enjoy the African Art museum and two museums of Asian art: the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The two Asian museums are located side by side on Independence Avenue.
The older museum of the two, The Freer Gallery, houses one of the premier collections of Asian art. You can find objects dating from Neolithic times to the early 20th century, as well as the world’s most important collection of works by James McNeill Whistler. The Sackler hosts contemporary art from Asia as well as international loan exhibitions.
HISTORY OF THE FREER GALLERY
The Freer Gallery was founded by Detroit railroad car manufacturer and self taught connoisseur,
Charles Lang Freer. He owned the largest collection of works by James McNeill Whistler and became his friend and patron. Whistler told Freer that if he helped him build such a premier collection of Whistler art, then Freer eventually must display the collection in a city where tourists visited.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE FREER GALLERY
Charles A. Platt, an American architect and landscape planner, designed the Freer Gallery. The building itself is in the Italian Renaissance style, inspired by Freer’s visits to palazzos in Italy. Supposedly, while meeting with Platt to discuss the construction of the museum, Freer used a napkin to jot down his ideas for the design of a classical, well-proportioned building.Construction of the gallery began in 1916. The building was completed in 1921, after a delay due to World War I. As a result, on May 9, 1923, the Freer Gallery of Art opened to the public.
Platt built the Freer Gallery primarily of granite. He used pink granite from Milford, MA for the exterior of the Freer. He used unpolished Tennessee white marble for the walls of the courtyard and carnelian granite for the fountain. Finally, the gallery’s interior walls are Indiana limestone, and the floors are polished Tennessee marble.
PREVIOUS RENOVATIONS OF THE FREER GALLERY
A major renovation of the building, which culminated in a grand reopening in 1993, greatly expanded storage and exhibition space by connecting the Freer and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. With the addition of the connecting gallery, the Freer has 39,039 square feet of public space. Most noteworthy, the original structure designed by Platt remains intact, including the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium which serves as the venue for many public programs.
THE FREER IS REOPENING THIS WEEKEND WITH A CELEBRATION
Regrettably, the Freer Gallery has been closed for renovations for two years, but it finally is reopening on the 14th and 15th of October. To celebrate the opening of the Freer and Sackler, the Smithsonian is hosting a festival of Asian art, cultures and food on the National Mall. The IlluminAsia festival is free and open to the public.
The museums’ grounds, including the Haupt Garden, will be transformed with an Asian food market, live performances, and dozens of local and international artists. In addition, inside the museum, visitors will be able to enjoy the new galleries and creative exhibitions, as well as other activities to stir your imagination. While IlluminAsia is presented in conjunction with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, this will be even more interesting than the summer Festival. Afterward, the celebration continues with a variety of special public programs and activities going on through the year to come.