Some things in the DC arts are not to be missed. Song 1 at the Hirshhorn this past summer. Ai Weiwei’s exhibition there right now. And, starting on December 1, Pure Land at the Freer and Sackler Galleries.
Imagine being in a dark cave, shining a flashlight around over intricate paintings. Then, all of a sudden, the lights go up and, yes, everything is illuminated. In Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang, a heated tent outside the Freer and Sackler Galleries represents the UNESCO World Heritage site itself, now closed to visitors. Wearing 3D glasses, visitors have the capability to zoom in on intricate details, to hear music made by the instruments represented in the painting, see traditional dances acted out like the ones in the painting, zoom in on tiny yet gorgeous details, and just really be wowed. I was concerned that the idea might come off as hokey, but seeing the cave without suffering any jet lag was just perfect.
The caves at Dunhuang in the Gobi Desert are located on the Silk Road. Financed by the Medicis of the time, they came to be known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. There are over 700 caves on the site, but this one was selected for the experiment of transporting the 360 degree, true to life experience of the cave abroad. Using thousands of photographs, the 3D experience really does feel like being there, but better.
Please don’t miss this, DC. It’s only here for a short time, and you really won’t be able to see it in China.
Visitors can experience Pure Land for themselves, from December 1-9.