Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

May 25 – September 7, 2008

East Building, Mezzanine and Upper Level, Northwest


Overview: 228 objects ranging in date from 2200 BC to AD 200 on loan from the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul, were shown in this exhibition, including jewelry, ornaments, weapons, household objects and architectural fragments made of gold, bronze, and other metals, ivory, glass and stone. The works were excavated from four archeological sites in Afghanistan: the Bronze Age site at Tepe Fullol, the Greco-Bactrian city of Aï Khanum, the trading settlement of Begram, and the necropolis of Tillya Tepe. Many of the objects were assumed to have been lost during the years of conflict in Afghanistan but were recovered from a vault under the Presidential Palace, Kabul, in 2004. A 3-minute long animated digital reconstruction Aï Khanum was shown in the exhibition.

An audio guide was narrated by National Gallery of Art director Earl A. Powell III, with commentary by curator Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic Society; Sanjyot Mehendale, University of California, Berkeley; and archaeologist Paul Bernard, Paris, France. A 28-minute documentary film, Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures, produced by the National Geographic Society and narrated by Khaled Hosseini, was shown in the East Building Large and Small Auditoriums from July through September. A 12-minute segment of the film was show in the exhibition. Additional documentaries were presented as part of a program, Afghanistan on Film, which included recent documentaries, contemporary drama, and short media works.

Exhibition curator Fredrik Hiebert presented an opening-day lecture. A children's choir, led by Afghan singer and arranger Vaheed Kaacemy, performed in the East Building Auditorium that day to celebrate the English translation of the songbook Children's Songs from Afghanistan. A concert of traditional Afghan music led by Kaacemy was held in the evening.

In celebration of the exhibition, a special menu by Washington-area chefs was offered at the Garden Café: Silk Road.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Geographic Society and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic Society, was curator.

Sponsor: In Washington the exhibition was made possible by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. It was also supported by The Charles Engelhard Foundation. Corporate support was provided by National Construction & Logistics and Hamed Wardak. The exhibition was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.The brochure was made possible by the National Geographic Society.

Attendance: 212,249

Catalog: Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, edited by Fredrik Hiebert and Pierre Cambon. Washington: National Geographic Society, 2008.

Brochure: Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul by Fredrik Hiebert and Susan Arensberg. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2008.

Other Venues: Musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, June 12, 2006–April 30, 2007
Museo di Antichità, Collezioni Archeologiche, Turin, May 25–November 18, 2007
Nationale Stichting De Nieuwe Kerk, Amersterdam, December 21, 2007–April 20, 2008
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, October 24, 2008–January 25, 2009
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, February 22–May 17, 2009
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 23–September 20, 2009

Image: Installation view of Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, photo by Rob Shelley, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives