Ai Weiwei work coming to Sackler Gallery in spring

January 10, 2012

An installation by famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will be shown at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery this spring.

“Fragments,” a huge work in ironwood with pieces from the dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty, will be installed at the gallery. The exhibition is one of several announced Tuesday as part of the Sackler’s 25th-anniversary celebration.

Ai, 54, is not only a celebrated artist but a lauded dissident of the Chinese government’s policies and human rights record. He was detained for three months last year and is not allowed to leave the country until late June.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is showing a larger exhibition, “Ai Weiwei: According to What?,” beginning in October. Both museums hope Ai will be able to view the shows.

In other news, philanthropist Jillian Sackler, the widow of Arthur M. Sackler, who donated 1,000 objects from his collection to begin the gallery, gave the museum $5 million to mark the anniversary.

Julian Raby, the Sackler’s director, also announced that the museum will be the first U.S. venue for a show of recently discovered items from ancient Saudi Arabia. Objects from more than 10 sites are the core of “Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” It opens Oct. 20.

Usually the gallery presents only a couple of its folios and paintings from its Mughal and Persian collections. For the anniversary, it is combining its work with that of its sister museum, the Freer Gallery of Art. “Worlds Within Worlds: Imperial Paintings From India and Iran” will have 50 works and open July 28.

“We have become a collection of collections for a nation of nations,” Raby said.

The Sackler will also play a part in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the gift of cherry trees from Japan to Washington. Beginning March 10, it will present the “Masters of Mercy: Buddha’s Amazing Disciples,” an epic series by Kano Kazunobu. In addition, starting March 24, the museum will present the print series of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai.

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