What we think

Freer|Sackler reopens in Washington

October 2017

Exciting times in Washington DC as our friends at the Freer|Sackler Museums reopen after renovation with new displays and a powerful new purpose – to generate empathy between different cultures.

The Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery together make up America’s national museums of Asian Art – they are run as one organisation and joined together by an underground tunnel but each have very different histories and aesthetics.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery opened in 1987 and is 95% underground, lit by a central lightwell. Whereas The Freer Gallery of Art opened in 1923 and is designed in a Neo-Classical style around a central courtyard (that housed live peacocks in the museum's early days!). It also contains the famous ‘Peacock Room’, designed by James McNeill Whistler as one of the earliest art installations of its type on record.

Most of the Freer’s refurbishment will not be immediately visible as much of the work was infrastructural, but many of the spaces have also been refurbished and the collection reimagined and redisplayed. But what will be most apparent from the marketing materials and visitor experience is the organisation’s new confidence in what it stands for – articulated in a new visual language and bold messages. It’s a complex business managing and marketing two separate but joined galleries, so the refurbishment was an opportunity for the organisation to redefine its purpose and public offer. They are now confident internally that their purpose (one which will drive all their decision-making) is to generate empathy, and that while they are two galleries, they are one destination – a place ‘Where Asia Meets America’.

Erick W. Hoffman, Head of Marketing and Communications at the Freer|Sackler said:  “It’s a really exciting time for the Freer|Sackler. This idea of being one destination serving as the place where Asia meets America in our Nation’s capital is an important step forward for us – it’s going to help us introduce even more audiences to Asian art and culture – increasing appreciation and understanding across cultures more generally”