The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery was founded in 1982 when Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), a New York research physician, publisher, and art connoisseur, donated approximately one thousand masterworks of Asian art and funds to construct a building to the Smithsonian Institution. Since the Gallery opened in 1987, the Sackler collection has expanded to include the Vever Collection, an important collection of the Islamic arts of the book from the 11th to the 19th century; 19th and 20th century Japanese prints and contemporary porcelain; Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean paintings; arts of village India; contemporary Chinese ceramics; and photography. The Sackler Gallery also compensates for the limits of Charles Lang Freer’s will by providing space for important loan exhibitions of Asian and Near Eastern art.
On May 21, 1979, the US Congress passed legislation authorizing construction of a complex of museums and public spaces in the quadrangle behind the Smithsonian Institution Building, the Castle. On December 23, 1981, federal funding was approved, and combined with donations from Dr. Sackler and other benefactors. Ground was broken for the new Quadrangle Complex on June 21, 1983, and the Sackler Gallery opened to the public on September 28, 1987.
The Quadrangle Complex houses the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, as well as the National Museum of African Art and the S. Dillon Ripley International Center. The uniqueness of the complex is that 96 percent of it resides underground with the Enid A. Haupt Victorian Garden on its roof. The complex was designed by architect Jean Paul Carlhian of the Boston firm Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott. Carlhain carried out the concept of a linked underground complex of buildings. His design incorporated geometric forms which were meant to provide a contextual unity to the project with the existing Smithsonian buildings: the Smithsonian Institution Building, the Castle; the Arts and Industries Building; and the Freer Gallery of Art. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery was placed adjacent to the Freer Gallery of Art, and decorated with triangular forms to reflect Islamic design motifs. The pink and gray granite reflects the colors of the Smithsonian Institution Building, the Arts and Industries Building, and the Freer Gallery of Art. The Sackler Gallery is entered through a 4,130 square foot granite pavilion located in the Enid A. Haupt Garden. The rest of the 115,000 square foot structure is built on three sky-lit levels extending 57 feet below ground. The Gallery contains 40,905 square feet of public space for exhibitions and public programs.
- Chronology of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- Bibliography of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- Historic Images of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Records from the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Historic Picture Highlights of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- Additional Records and Collections of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Across the Smithsonian