Julian Raby. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: Past, Present and Future
In 2012 the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery celebrates its 25th anniversary – an opportune moment to reflect on past achievements and to look forward to a future that builds on those accomplishments and takes the museum in new directions. The Sackler opened in 1987 as part of a major initiative by the Smithsonian to create a pair of international art museums on the National Mall, the two linked by a display area aptly named the International Gallery. The earliest art museum on the Mall was the Freer Gallery of Art, founded in 1923 and, although its principal focus is Asia, its potential has been restricted by the conditions of Charles Lang Freer’s (1854-1919) will that embargoed any loans in or out. Free from these restrictions, the Sackler was therefore envisioned as a museum that would from the outset be a major player in international exhibitions and in academic exchanges. Indeed, Sackler (1913-87) set up the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University, and an Asian extension to the Fogg Museum in Harvard in the hope that the three institutions would collaborate: a vision in accord with that of the then Secretary of the Smithsonian, Dillon Ripley (1913-2001).