Several area galleries and museums mounted special art exhibitions in conjunction with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. They’re not all flower-related; many simply have a Japanese theme. A few aren’t Japanese or floral (which actually makes them more interesting, in my book, if you’re seeking a break from blossom overload).
I sniffed out the offerings and picked a bouquet of the most fragrant blooms.
A good place to start might be the Library of Congress, which is showing a selection of 54 watercolors, prints, books, photos, posters, cartoons, postcards and other printed ephemera from its collection that tell the story of the original 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo. “Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship” also looks at the historical significance of cherry trees in Japan, as well as their importance in Washington culture.
How is a cherry blossom like a Japanese samurai? You’ll find out in “Samurai: The Warrior Transformed” at the National Geographic Museum. [Hint: It has to do with the fleeting nature of life, as exemplified by the short-lived blossoms, which die at the peak of their beauty. That’s a Buddhist concept than any good samurai, about to commit ritual suicide, would appreciate, as explained in this short video by exhibition writer and consultant Constantine Vaporis.]
If you’re near the Mall, be sure and check out the Arthur. M. Sackler Gallery and the National Gallery of Art. Together, these two museums are celebrating what they’re calling “Japan Spring” with three thematically related exhibitions. At the Sackler, it’s “Hokusai: 36 Views of Mount Fuji” and “Masters of Mercy: Buddha’s Amazing Disciples.” At the National Gallery of Art, you’ll find “Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Ito Jakuchu (1716–1800).” On Saturday, swing by the Sackler for the Japan Spring opening day celeberation, featuring bento boxes and tea, family activities and kabuki demonstrations.
Just as cool, if less explicitly Japan-centric, is the 5x5 Project, a temporary citywide public art show taking place at multiple sites around town. Organized by five contemporary curators, each of whom chose five artists to spotlight, it will launch on Saturday night, with a free kickoff party at the Capitol Skyline Hotel. Check out the DJs and cash bar, or just pick up info about locations.
Finally, don’t miss “Song 1” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Video artist Doug Aitken’s 360-degree projection, visible nightly from sunset to midnight, appears on the exterior of the museum’s donut-shaped building.