Freer|Sackler Gallery Southeast Asia Collections

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Freer | Sackler Gallery Online

New web resource – the new Freer|Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian has a section devoted to Southeast Asian art.

Freer | Sackler Gallery Online

Encompassing thousands of islands and mainland topographies between India, Australia, and China, Southeast Asia has been at the center of long-distance trade networks for centuries. Accordingly, Southeast Asian artworks feature innovative forms that blend local and imported traditions. The region’s art is also deeply connected with the tropical environment. Nature informs everything from the materials used to the imagery portrayed.

Thousands of sacred sites can be found across the region. Their structures range from caves and simple shrines to vast temple complexes. Like the artworks they hold, the sites are positioned in relation to natural features, such as rivers and volcanos.

Comprising close to nine hundred objects, the Freer|Sackler’s Southeast Asia collections range from Buddhist and Hindu sculpture in stone and bronze to gold jewelry and ceramics from Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma). Below, you can browse our objects, explore Southeast Asia’s sacred sites, and delve into the region’s vibrant material cultures.

Source: Collections: Southeast Asia – Freer|Sackler

Freer and Sacker Galleries go online in January

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Starting next year, the collections of the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian museums will go online – the public will be able to examine over 40,000 artworks from the galleries, including 1,200 pieces from South and Southeast Asia. It’s a massive undertaking, but this is technology making museum collection open to the public at its best!

Freer and Sackler Galleries to Release Complete Digitized Collection Jan. 1, 2015
More than 40,000 Masterpieces of Asian and American Art Available for Free Public Use

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art, will
release their entire collections online Jan. 1, 2015, providing unprecedented access to one of the world’s most important holdings of Asian and American art. The vast majority of the 40,000 artworks have never before been seen by the public, and more than 90 percent of the images will be in high resolution and without copyright restrictions for noncommercial use.

The Freer and Sackler galleries are the first Smithsonian and the only Asian art museums to digitize and release their entire collections, and in so doing join just a handful of museums in the U.S.

“We’re poised at a digital tipping point, and the nature of what it means to be a museum is changing,” said Julian Raby, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art. “We strive to promote the love and study of Asian art, and the best way we can do so is to free our unmatched resources to inspire appreciation, academic study and artistic creation.”

In the initial release, each work will be represented by one or more stunningly detailed images at the highest possible resolution, with complex items such as albums and manuscripts showing the most important pages. In addition, some of the most popular images will also be available for download as free computer, smartphone and social media backgrounds. Future iterations plan to offer additional functionality like sharing, curation and community-based research.

“The depth of the data we’re releasing illuminates each object’s unique history, from its original creator to how it arrived at the Smithsonian,” said Courtney O’Callaghan, director of digital media and technology at the Freer and Sackler galleries. “Now, a new generation can not only appreciate these works on their own terms, but remix this content in ways we have yet to imagine.” Read more from

The museum’s masterpieces range in time from the Neolithic to the present day, featuring especially fine groupings of Chinese jades and bronzes, Islamic art, Chinese paintings and masterworks from ancient Persia. Currently, the collection boasts 1,806 American art objects, 1,176 ancient Egyptian objects, 2,076 ancient Near Eastern objects, 10,424 Chinese objects, 2,683 Islamic objects, 1,213 South and Southeast Asian objects and smaller groupings of Korean, Armenian, Byzantine, Greek and Roman works. In addition, the Freer Study Collection–more than 10,000 objects used by scholars around the world for scientific research and reference–will be viewable for the first time.

Shipwrecks and Shark's Fin Soup


I was on holiday when the Smithsonian announced that it would not be hosting the Belitung Shipwreck exhibition last month. Much inked has been spilled, particularly by commentators in Singapore decrying the decision. Here’s a roundup and my take.

Changsha Wares from the Belitung Shipwreck

Changsha Wares from the Belitung Shipwreck

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Sackler Gallery Convenes Advisory Group to Discuss "Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds" Exhibition

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A press release from the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution about the Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds exhibition which they were supposed to host next year, but put on hold because of outcries from some archaeologists and cultural heritage experts over the issues of exhibiting artefacts taken from a commercial salvage operation (See here). The exhibition was on display this year at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, and is now in storage.

Sackler Gallery Convenes Advisory Group to Discuss “Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds” Exhibition
Media Release from the Sackler Gallery, 08 December 2011
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'Shipwrecked' at the Smithsonian postponed due to outcry

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This just in. The New York Times reports that the ‘Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds’ exhibition currently exhibiting at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore has been postponed, til at least 2013, due to concerns over the commercial salvage operation related to the recovery of the cargo. I wonder if the exhibition is going to stay in Singapore for a little longer now?

Shipwrecked Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds exhibition at the ArtScience Museum, Singapore

Shipwreck Show Postponed
New York Times, 28 June 2011
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Videos from the Gods of Angkor at the Smithsonian

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Here’s a couple of videos related to the current Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia currently exhibiting at the Freer and Sacker Gallery Galleries of the Smithsonian. The first is a news piece on the exhibition by the VOA Khmer Service and is in Khmer.

[youtube YUwgQxZK3bg 500 405]
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Belitung Shipwreck treasures to be exhibited at the Smithsonian

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The treasures from the Belitung Shipwreck will be exhibited internationally for the first time, starting with Singapore later this year, and in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in 2012.

Rare find to debut in S’pore
Straits Times, 27 July 2010
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