On our last day in Washington, DC, Ruth & I finally had time for The Smithsonian. On previous visits we have been to all its attractions. My personal favorites are the National Museum of the American Indian, The Korean War Veterans Memorial, and The Renwick.
This time we hoped to see Roads of Arabia, Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Sackler. The Fall 2012 Visitors Guide, which calls itself “The Ultimate Insiders’ Guide to the Capitol Region”, described it as an eye-opening look at the largely unknown ancient past of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and said it was on view through February 24, 2013. However, it forgot to mention that it didn’t open until Saturday, November 17. It was October 20. Oops. Instead, Ruth & I saw the very fine Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan that closes November 25. It included some very sophisticated gold jewelry with almost microscopic details featuring snow leopards.
We also checked out the Peacock Room, a dining space redecorated in 1876 by painter James McNeill Whistler, most famous to Americans for painting his rocking mother. Charles Lang Freer bought the entire Peacock Room in London, moved it to Detroit, and stuffed its shelves with his own considerable, eclectic ceramics collection. It now looks like it did when Freer first showed it off to visitors in 1908.
The Arts and Industries Building next to the Smithsonian Castle is currently closed for renovation and to repair some earthquake damage. I hope the Sackler & Freer Galleries, which are connected and both specialize in Asian art, are next in line for make overs.
We still had time, so Ruth and I checked out the current, very popular Hirshhorn show, Ai Weiwei: According to What? A fifty-something Chinese artist in the process of mastering several art forms while keeping himself in constant trouble for political activism, Weiwei first grabbed the world’s attention when he acted as artistic consultant for the 2008 Olympic’s Beijing National Stadium. Currently forbidden to leave China and use Twitter, Weiwei probably won’t get a chance to see the first American show devoted to his works. Perhaps the Chinese Government will relent when What? moves to the Brooklyn Museum in 2014. It’s at the Hirshhorn until February 24, 2013. Am I glad I saw it? Yes! Did I love it? 4 Compass, on first view. Weiwei is clearly a serious & passionate contemporary artist who creates visually simple yet outsized projects that certainly command attention. Ruth and I especially liked the outside Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads and everyone, including me, was taking a picture of Cube Light (seen in close-up above).