Long entwined with the study of Asian and Islamic art and literature, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art has supervised over 40 special exhibitions at the Freer|Sackler since 2002. Under Julian Raby’s leadership, exhibitions featuring some of the Asia’s most striking and valuable works of art and culture have gone on display at the museum and in traveling shows, including a collection of 56 paintings on loan from India that examined life in the royal court of Jodhpur in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a recently opened exhibition of Qur’anic art, the first ever to be exhibited in the United States.
In helping to guide the creation of Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan, Raby wanted to present a completely different view in order to disrupt conventional Western views of the country and its people. “The exhibition tells a story of how art can give meaning, purpose, and pleasure to people, even in times of great difficulty. That story is a universal one, that we all – wherever we are – can appreciate and relate to.”
Six Afghan artisans, graduates of Kabul’s Turquoise Mountain Institute, came to Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler museum throughout 2016 as artists-in-residence showcasing their skills and allowing visitors to experience Afghanistan’s living cultural heritage.