April Talks at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries

Zeynep Simavi's picture
April 14, 2018
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, East Asian History / Studies, South Asian History / Studies

Dear Colleagues,

We hope to see you at our talks this month at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries.


Freer’s Asian Ceramics Reconsidered

Massumeh Farhad, Louise Cort, and Jan Stuart

Saturday, April 14, 2018, 2 pm

Meyer Auditorium

Charles Lang Freer acquired his first cache of Asian ceramics in 1892. That initial haul—a hodgepodge of nineteenth-century Japanese wares—contained few masterpieces, but it presaged an enduring obsession with ceramics that grew to include examples from the Islamic world as well as all of East Asia. Freer never aspired to amass an encyclopedic array of specimens: his ceramics collection developed as a combination of singular masterpieces and formally harmonious, transhistorical and transcultural groupings. Renowned for a sharp eye and connoisseurial prowess, Freer nevertheless was far from prescient. Guided by a Gilded Age belief in a “universal art spirit,” Freer’s collecting was limited by the exigencies of the art market and a paucity of specialized knowledge. Even as he acquired ceramics from Japan, China, and the Islamic world that are among the best of their kind, Freer overlooked key areas of Asian ceramic production and overvalued or misattributed others. Curators Massumeh Farhad, Louise Cort, and Jan Stuart reflect on the legacy of Freer’s ceramics collection, putting the museum founder’s hits and misses into context.

This talk is part of the series The Freer Story, celebrating the reopening of the Freer Gallery of Art.


Islamic Architecture of Deccan India: A New Look

George Michell

Saturday, April 21, 2018, 2 pm

Freer Conference Room

Discover the richly decorated, imposing cities of India’s Deccan region, testaments to the cultural refinement and immense wealth of the Bijapur and Golconda-Hyderabad courts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Despite the attention given to the Mughal monuments of northern India, architecture of the Deccan—including impressive audience halls, pleasure pavilions, mosques, and tombs—represents some of the Islamic world’s most wondrous achievements. Dr. George Michell will discuss a selection of these architectural masterpieces, illustrated by splendid photographs by Antonio Martinelli commissioned for a new volume on Deccan Islamic architecture coauthored by Michell and Dr. Helen Philon. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Dr. George Michell is a renowned historian of Indian architecture. He studied architecture in Melbourne and Indian art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Since, he has conducted research at numerous heritage sites in India, including more than twenty years documenting the ruins of Hampi Vijayanagara with the American archaeologist Dr. John M. Fritz. Among Michell’s recent publications are Mughal Architecture & Gardens (2011), Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas (2014), Late Temple Architecture of India, 15th to 19th Centuries (2015), Mansions of Chettinad (2017), and Buddhist Rock-Cut Monasteries of the Western Ghats (2017).


In Search of the Lotus Sutra

Donald Lopez

Sunday, April 22, 2018, 2 pm

Freer Conference Room

Renowned for its powerful parables, the Lotus Sutra is perhaps the most famous of all Buddhist scriptures. This talk will take us in search of the Lotus Sutra, from its origins in ancient India to its great artistic influence in China and Japan, to America—where it was read by Emerson and Thoreau—and to the present day, when its title is chanted around the world. This talk is preceded by a curator-led tour of the exhibition The Power of Words in an Age of Crisis: Buddhist Art in Japan in Freer gallery 7, which presents recently acquired examples of the Lotus Sutra.

Donald Lopez is Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies and chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Culture at the University of Michigan. He has published widely on a range of topics concerning Buddhism, writing for both a specialist audience and the wider public. His most recent publication is Hyecho’s Journey: The World of Buddhism, a collaborative project with University of Michigan colleagues. Their work on Hyecho forms part of the Freer|Sackler’s exhibition Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia. Professor Lopez also narrates the podcast “Buddhism and the Beat,” part of the museums’ Freer Thinking series.

Free and open to public

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

1050 Independence Avenue Washington, DC 20560

Contact Info: 

Zeynep Simavi

Public and Scholarly Engagement

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery



Contact Email: