National Museums of Asian Art

National Museums of Asian Art information

Washington, DC , USA
Getting there
Underground Rail: Smithsonian
More information
admission free
Opening hours
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The dangling sculpture Monkeys Grasping for the Moon, an image of a dozen stylized primates fashioned into the word ‘monkey’ in a like number of languages (including Japanese, Hebrew, Braille and Urdu) is perhaps the most impressive piece of introductory art to welcome you to a Smithsonian institution – and a reminder that you have just entered a very special museum. Well, two museums actually: the Arthur M Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art combine to form the National Museums of Asian Art. Make sure to visit them in tandem for the best effect.

This is simply a lovely spot in which to while away a Washington afternoon. Japanese silk scrolls, Buddha’s flashing Mona Lisa smiles, rare Islamic manuscripts and a treasure of Silk Road artifacts – many the gift of Dr Arthur M Sackler – are all housed in appealingly spare and well-executed galleries. When you finish in the Sackler, jaunt over to the Freer via the underground tunnel. It offers its own incredible ensemble of ancient ceramics, Southeast Asian temple sculpture and centuries-old Chinese scrolls, a gift from Detroit industrialist Charles Lang Freer. The self-taught connoisseur was also a fan of James McNeill Whistler, whose works, somewhat incongruously, also appear here. Don’t miss the blue-and-gold, ceramics-crammed Peacock Room.

Like all Smithsonian institutions, free lectures, film screenings etc are hosted here; check the website for details.