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May 19, 2017
Julian Raby, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, has announced that he will retire from his position at the beginning of 2018 after 15 years with the Institution.
As director of the Freer and Sackler galleries, Raby―a well-known scholar of Islamic art―has overseen dozens of highly successful and popular exhibitions, including “Return of the Buddha: The Qingzhou Discoveries” (2004), “Hokusai” (2006), “Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur” (2008), “Echoes of the Past: the Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan” (2011), “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” (2013), “Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s ‘Filthy Lucre,’” (2015), “The Art of the Qur’an” (2016) and “Inventing Utamaro: A Japanese Masterpiece Rediscovered” (2017). He took a lead on two of the museum’s most popular exhibitions, “In the Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000” (2006) and the monumental “Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries” (2007). Under his direction, the Freer and Sackler galleries are world-class research institutes in the fields of art history and conservation. Raby has also championed training programs for professionals in the fields of archaeology, art and museum studies.
“For me, and I hope for the museum and above all our visitors, the past 15 years have felt like an ascent, an adventure in expanding impact and outreach without sacrificing our great tradition of research and artistic appreciation,” Raby said. “We have broadened the range of our exhibitions, embraced modern and contemporary art, developed some wondrous displays and sharpened their relevance. We have traveled our exhibitions nationally and internationally and made the entirety of our collections accessible online. We are now more open to experimentation, in our spaces and in the digital realm, and we have built a more secure financial future by launching our first endowment campaign, which has brought in $65 million for programs and personnel. It’s been exciting, if at times a little giddying.”
Before coming to the Smithsonian, Raby served as curator, concept designer and consultant for exhibitions in the United States and abroad. He had also distinguished himself as both an academic and commercial publisher of Asian art.
For more than 20 years, Raby was lecturer in Islamic art at the University of Oxford, and he continued to write academic research papers in his principal area of expertise, Islamic art, while at the Smithsonian. He looks forward to devoting more time to research and writing across a wide range of scholarly interests, from Byzantium to China, Late Antiquity to the Renaissance.
The Smithsonian will begin a search for Raby’s successor this summer.