Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Freer and Sackler Gallery & African Art

Freer and Sackler: The Smithsonian's Museum of Asian Art Office Site
National Museum of African Art Official Site

I had set my day for visiting the monuments of D.C. and the White House, and also the Freer and Sackler Gallery of Asian Art. I knew I would be pretty tired after walking half a day to see the monuments, so I picked a smaller museum to visit. Accidentally I visited two museums because the Freer and Sackler Gallery was connected to the African Art museum, and I went in one museum and came out from another. I did not look up any information before hand to the museum, and it turned out to be a lovely museum whose layout and atmosphere I really enjoyed. It was quiet, spacious, elegant, and with dim lighting at some parts and natural sunlight at others.

Let’s start with the Freer and Sackler Gallery. The gallery starts at ground level and goes underground, and for a few moments that slightly confused me because I have never been to a museum to goes down. The exhibitions covered a wide range of art, from East Asia with Chinese, Japanese art and so on, then to Near East Asia with present-day Afghanistan, and also some Islamic art. Using the Chinese exhibition as an example, I would say the collection is small yet complete.  Every era/dynasty was covered; there may not be a lot of artifacts in each era, but a good collection that demonstrates the characteristics of the time. However, small here is not a negative word at all to describe the collection, with Asia being such a big continent with so many cultures and deep history, the small parts put together presents a big picture of Asian art.

Compared to other museums I’ve visited so far, Freer and Sackler definitely is the quietest one, it also has the most spacious feeling. The museum isn’t big, but the display space between the artifacts is comfortably placed, and the walls are soft pastel colors; the quietness and lack of large groups of people definitely help the experience as well. It was just what I needed, my legs were super tired, I had spent too much time under the sun, and seen enough tourist groups on Segways and on feet.
That day I walked all over the National Mall, from the White House to Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial. Since I didn’t have lunch and I was in a good mood with the sunny weather, I bought myself an ice cream sandwich.  To be honest I wasn’t too interested in the monuments and memorials, having seen them eight years ago, they hadn’t changed much. And the monuments and memorials sometimes just feel like big statues or a big, empty space.

This really cool sculpture that goes through the entire museum is actually made of the word "monkey" in 21 different languages.

Now why did I get to African Art Museum--accidentally? Because the two are connected under ground and I did not know. I went to the very last floor of the museum and walked into an exhibition about African art, I thought it was a special exhibition going on and walked through the exhibition, that was just as quiet, spacious, and full of interesting art work to see. But when another exhibition was also African Art, I thought I may have left the Freer and Sackler Gallery; making it to the ground floor, I realized I was in a completely different main hall. I picked up a pamphlet, finally figured out where I was, and walked out of the African Art Museum, slightly baffled, but glad to have visited another museum.

So adults out there, do you have the same feeling as me when visiting museums, that you want to do the kid activities? At the Freer and Sackler Gallery there was this art classroom for kids, and they were decorating a paper fan that day. I peeked into the classroom and it looks amazing, it will filled with beautiful handmade artwork. Do you think the classroom would turn me away because I'm an adult? I like decorating fans as well. I don't they would turn me away, but they'll probably think I'm weird...there should be hands on activities for adults as well! Or, hands on activities shouldn't be limited to an age group; I understand they were designed to fit a certain group, but if adults are interested too in sitting in the little seats and decorate pretty fans, they should feel welcomed as well. I don't know if they will welcome me, I didn't go in, but maybe I'll find out someday.

I found the cutest mug cup in their gift shop! It's a cat face on the bottom, and when you turn it over, the nose and two ears become perfect balance for the mug. I'll want to finish my tea quickly so I can see the cat.

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