Julian Raby, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art, has been awarded the Presidential Order of Merit, conferred by the president of the Republic of Turkey for contributions to Turkish art and culture. The award is one of Turkey’s highest honors.
On behalf of President Abdullah Gül, Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kılıç presented the medal to Raby at an Aug. 13 awards ceremony held at The Turkish Embassy Residence in Washington, D.C.
“I’m deeply honored to receive this medal,” said Raby. “I first visited Turkey in 1967 and fell in love with its people, its places and its histories. My friendships from those early years evolved into collaborative projects, and I owe a remarkable debt to my Turkish friends and colleagues for their support and scholarship.”
Raby, 65, is a world-renowned expert in Islamic art. Since being appointed director in 2002, he has supervised almost 50 special exhibitions at the Freer and Sackler galleries. Those highlighting Turkey’s artistic legacy include contemporary photography from Turkey’s greatest photojournalist in “In Focus: Ara Güler's Anatolia” (2014), rarely seen, sumptuous Ottoman kaftans in “Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey” (2005) and lavish imperial gifts in “Tsars and the East: Gifts from Turkey and Iran in The Moscow Kremlin” (2009).
The Order of Merit (“Liyakat Nişanı” in Turkish) is presented to international scholars who have made great contributions to Turkey, the Turkish language, the Turkish culture, history and civilization. Nominations are proposed by the relevant Member of the Turkish Cabinet based on the recommendation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Atatürk Supreme Council for Culture, Language and History, and are confirmed by the Prime Minister.
Raby received his bachelor’s degree with honors from Magdalen College at the University of Oxford (1971), where he also earned his doctorate in Oriental Studies (1981). His affiliation with Oxford grew to include a prominent role as university lecturer in Islamic art and architecture (1979– 2006), chairman of curators of the Oriental Institute (1991–1993 and 1995–2000) and chairman of the Board of the Faculty of Oriental Studies (1993–1995).
He is the author of numerous papers, articles and books in the field of Turkish and Islamic art, including Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey (London, 1989), Turkish Bookbinding in the 15th Century, The Foundation of a Court Style (1993) and Qajar Portraits (London, 1999).
An active participant in professional and educational associations, Raby has served as a member of the Council of the British Institute of Archaeology and History in Amman, Jordan, and is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He is a Socio Straniero of the Accademia Veneta and a fellow of the Academia Europea. Raby also is a Grand Officer of Order of Prince Henry the Navigator (Portugal) and honorary member of the International Committee for Congress of Turkish Arts.
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit asia.si.edu or follow or . For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.