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Sackler Gallery Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will host a week of public events, welcoming a crowd of international arts and culture aficionados. Visitors can preview an immersive 3-D “cave,” meet their favorite authors at a book fair, and attend lectures and performances by distinguished scholars and artists. The week’s centerpiece, the 25th Anniversary Gala, will raise funds for the Sackler’s newly established contemporary art endowment.

A major highlight is “Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang,” an immersive digital experience on view for the first time in North America. The installation will be located in a heated tent in the adjacent Moongate Garden. It recreates one of the famous Buddhist cave temples of Dunhuang, China—a UNESCO World Heritage Site currently closed to the public to ensure its preservation.

Other highlights include a lecture by Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art and former Freer|Sackler curator, a panel with contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing, a performance by popular Arab vocalist Karima Skalli and the North American premiere of the exhibition “Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The week concludes with the Sackler’s 25th birthday celebration and Asian Arts and Culture Book Fair Saturday, Dec. 1, featuring free cupcakes, a book-making art activity for families and author talks and book signings by writers such as Azar Nafisi, Mary McFadden, Nurhan Atasoy, Helen Philon and Sanjay Patel.

A full listing of events and exhibitions follows:

Making History: Contemporary Art and the Middle East
Wednesday, Nov. 28; 7 p.m.
Freer, Meyer Auditorium
Glenn Lowry, former curator of Islamic art at the Freer and Sackler galleries and now director of the Museum of Modern Art, shares a unique perspective on the emergence of contemporary Middle Eastern art. The lecture is supported by the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Fund for Contemporary Iranian Art.

Digital Cave
Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang
Saturday, Dec. 1–Sunday, Dec. 9
Sackler, Haupt Garden
“Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang” is an immersive digital experience of a Chinese Buddhist cave, on view for the first time in North America. Using 3-D modeling, animations, video and recoloring, the installation recreates one of the famous Buddhist cave temples of Dunhuang, China. Colorful murals come alive with floating figures, performing musicians and a looming three-dimensional Buddha sculpture, allowing visitors to step inside a hyper-real tour of one of the world’s most important treasures. Pure Land is a project of the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Center of the City University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with the ALIVE project and Dunhuang Academy.

Timed tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. every day in the Sackler Pavilion.

Gala Celebration (invitation only)
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery 25th Anniversary Gala and Club Caravan Thursday, Nov. 29; 6:30 p.m.–12 p.m.
Guests from around the world will come to Washington to celebrate the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s first quarter century. The evening includes a spectacular pan-Asian themed array of cocktails, dinner and dancing, including performances by provocative Korean musician Amadeus Leopold (formerly known as Hahn-Bin) and a signature dessert by celebrity Indian-American chef Floyd Cardoz. The Silk Road Society and the Freer and Sackler’s young professional members, will host the event’s late-night party, “Club Caravan.” A full weekend of events for patrons will follow the gala and all proceeds will support an endowment for contemporary Asian art at the Sackler.

Panel Discussion
Phoenixes and Beyond: A Conversation with Xu Bing
Saturday, Dec. 1; 10:30 a.m.
Freer, Meyer Auditorium
Join contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing in conversation with Jane Debevoise, Chair of the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, and Carol Huh, assistant curator of Contemporary Asian Art at the Freer|Sackler, as they discuss Xu’s recent projects from calligraphy and monumental public art to time-based digital media works. Anniversary Celebration (public event)

Sackler 25th Birthday Celebration with Cake and Asian Art & Culture Book Fair
Saturday, Dec. 1; Cake Cutting 1 p.m., Book Fair 1–5 p.m.
Sackler and S. Dillon Ripley Center
Visitors will celebrate the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s 25th anniversary with free cupcakes, a book-making activity for families and an Asian art and culture book fair featuring a variety of subjects and countries, including fiction, current events and policy, history, art and architecture, Asian cuisine and children’s literature. Bestselling authors Azar Nafisi, Mary McFadden, Nurhan Atasoy, Helen Philon and Sanjay Patel will sign books. Books will be available for purchase. Cupcakes provided by Georgetown Cupcake, and available while supplies last.

Classical Arab and Andalusian Music: Vocalist Karima Skalli with the Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble
Saturday, Dec. 1; 7:30 p.m.
Freer, Meyer Auditorium
Hear one of the great voices of Arab classical music, a tradition steeped in rarified Arabic poetry and the sophisticated modes of Middle Eastern music. Sometimes called the next great diva of Arab music, Skalli has performed at the annual Festival and Conference of Arab Music, held at the Cairo Opera House; the International Festival of Sacred Music in Morocco; and the Festivals Beiteddine in Lebanon. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition “Roads of Arabia: Archeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” a highlight of the Sackler’s 25th anniversary.

Featured Exhibition
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Through Feb. 24, 2013
From haunting stone steles to luxurious gold masks and imposing monumental statues, “Roads of Arabia” offers a glimpse into the untold story of Saudi Arabia’s cultural past. The groundbreaking exhibition includes more than 280 objects, ranging in date from Arabia’s prehistory to the early 20th century. All of these objects are making their debut appearance in North America.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For more information visit