Why the U.S. Rejected—Then Embraced—a Detroit Industrialist’s Rare Collection of Asian Art | At the Smithsonian
Staff, 2022-12-16 11:56:09,
When industrialist and self-taught art collector Charles Lang Freer first offered more than 2,000 works of Asian and American art to the United States, the gift was rejected.
President Theodore Roosevelt intervened and facilitated that magnanimous bequest. Seventeen years later, in 1923, the collection was unveiled, showcased in an Italianate building funded by Freer as the Smithsonian’s first art museum. Freer did not live to see it; before his death in 1919, the collector had nearly doubled his holdings after a number of intense collecting sprees. Today the National Museum of Asian Art, comprising the Freer and Sackler galleries, houses more than 45,000 works.
The museum’s centennial next year offers a time to reflect on and celebrate its story—one that extends beyond a single name appearing on the façade of the building. Indeed, Roosevelt was just one individual among an international web of interrelated players who helped to create and bring Freer’s collection to the American people.
An exhibition on view at the National Museum of Asian Art, “Freer’s Global Network: Artists, Collectors and Dealers,” takes a peek behind the curtain to tell that…
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