Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


The combined Freer and Sackler galleries are also one of the secret pleasures of the Mall with incomparable riches inside, and we were looking for a way to give the institution a presence. The Freer opened its doors in 1923 while the Sackler was only two years old when Milo and I put our heads together, and came up with the idea for the gala. I invited David Rockefeller and Brooke Astor – both of whom were immersed in the arts and cultures of Asia – who fl ew down from New York City for the evening. “I knew it would be a glamorous affair, so I wore my pearls,” Brooke told me before she departed. Of course, her pearls were as large as eggs!

To that end, the galleries have used proceeds from the annual galas to fund programs of music and poetry, to host school groups both in the museum and in their own classrooms, to offer meaningful and creative hands-on programs for children in the ImaginAsia family classroom, and to present fi lms, lectures, and important exhibitions as well. In many ways, the museum is a bridge to understanding worlds different from our own. It may start with a party, but the annual gala allows us to roll up our sleeves and do the real work of the museum: to get people to focus on the arts and cultures of Asia and how much we owe to that part of the world.

In the eighteen years since the Freer and Sackler Galleries – the national museum of Asian art at the Smithsonian – held their fi rst gala on the mall, the annual gathering has turned into one of the highlights of the year. In addition to a black-tie evening, the gala became a way to educate the public about the arts and cultures of Asia. Almost twenty years later, with geographical literacy very much on peoples’ minds and funding for institutions like the Smithsonian often on shaky ground, that need is still great. “Encompassing the Globe:

Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries” opens in both the Sackler and the neighboring National Museum of African Art. This tremendous undertaking traces Portugal’s infl uence around the globe, from Japan to India, from Africa to China, and will resonate with the public long after the exhibition has moved on.

A black-tie opening gala for the exhibition to be held on June 20 will be attended by Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva and other high-level government and corporate partners from Portugal and Oman.

The first gala, in 1987, was a smaller affair. Then, director Milo Beech and I were thinking of ways to not only fund educational programming at the museum, but to encourage more visitors to come to the Freer, a rather esoteric museum.



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