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Washington, D.C is awash in cultural attractions. It is perhaps then not surprising that you can find some of the finest art museums and galleries in the world within the greater D.C. area. In fact, the most difficult task for art aficionados may be narrowing down which galleries they want to visit.
The National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden, set on the National Mall, is considered to be among the world’s most impressive art museums. Originally opened in 1937, the Gallery includes masterpieces from the world’s preeminent artists. Where you explore will largely be dictated by your own personal taste, but many note that the Alexander Calder mobile (reportedly the largest ever created) and the Ginevra de' Benci, at the time of purchase the only Leonardo da Vinci painting on display in the Americas, are among two “must-sees.”
At present, the collection includes more than 141,000 American and European paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, decorative arts pieces, and new media works. The permanent collection ranges from the Middle Ages to modern work. Art by the Masters include work by El Greco, Rembrandt, Titian, Johannes Vermeer, Matthias Grünewald, Raphael and Francisco Goya, among many others.
The National Portrait Gallery was created essentially to reveal the story of America through the images of the heroes and villains who have shaped it. From inventors to politicians, from artists to activists, more than 225 years of impact are displayed here. The Gallery is also the host of numerous performances throughout the year that tell the stories of those who have inspired and those who have thwarted. While initially including only paintings, drawings, prints, and engravings, the collection now includes all types of media.
The National Portrait Gallery is a member of the Smithsonian Institution. Founded in 1962, the Gallery changes as the country changes. The heart of the Gallery shares the presidential portrait collection – the only complete collection outside of the White House. Thanks to a generous donation, the Gallery has been gifted the famous painting of George Washington, “Landsdowne” by Gilbert Stuart, which was once in danger of being sold.
Also located on the National Mall is the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, an important exhibitor of international contemporary and modern art in D.C. While the artists of note in the collection are too numerous to mention, Picasso, Matisse, Cassatt, Pollock, Rothko, Hopper, and Chamberlain are among them.
The building itself represents a landmark for the city. The circular structure is a delight to behold, as is its Plaza’s lighted fountain – the site of many of the city’s social events. And while the artwork is the main draw, the view of the D.C. skyline from the Lerner Room is spectacular.
The National Museum of African Art, founded in 1964, is connected to the Smithsonian Institution. This stunning collection focuses its attention on the conservation, exhibition and continued study of the artwork of Africa. It currently houses more than 9,000 art pieces from contemporary and traditional Sub-Saharan and Arab North African artists. There are also more than 300,000 photographs and 50,000 volumes houses here. It is considered to be the largest collection of African art in the U.S.
If you are interested in Asian art, make time to explore the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and adjacent Freer Gallery of Art. Together, they work to promote the cultures and artistic contributions of Asia. Located on Independence Avenue, the galleries promote exhibits of Asian artists from ancient times through modern day. It is said to have some of the most impressive collections of Chinese bronzes and jades in the world. Their collections of South Asian sculpture, contemporary art and Japanese ceramics are also among the most popular draws.
The Renwick Gallery works as a critical branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It’s also just steps away from the White House, in a landmark building that is also a huge draw for architecture buffs and history buffs. Why is it considered a landmark? It is said to be the first building in the U.S. to be specifically constructed for the purpose of being an art museum.
The Renwick Gallery lives up to its historic past by celebrating contemporary American artwork. Among the most popular exhibits is Wendell Castle’s "Ghost Clock," Karen LaMonte's "Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery" and Nick Cave's "Sound Suit."
Its parent museum is the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). When you combine it with the Renwick collection, you will find one of the world’s largest collections of art created in the United States. There are more than 7,000 artists on display between the two facilities, and the work ranges from the colonial period to modern day. As a fun fact, it currently holds the largest collection of New Deal artwork in the world. It also includes Gilded Age masterpieces and paintings by American impressionists. Most of the SAAM exhibits are shown in the Old Patent Office Building, which is shared with that National Portrait Gallery.
If modern art is your passion, be sure to add The Phillips Collection to your itinerary. Set it the lively Dupont Circle area, The Phillips Collection gives you an intimate, quiet look at their collection. From Renoir to O’Keefe, from Rothko to Diebenkorn, the space is filled with awe-inspiring impressionist and modern pieces. And their collection of contemporary artists continues to grow.
Cutting-edge collaborations of technology, art and science are always on display at ARTECHOUSE on Maryland Avenue. It’s a recent addition to the Washington, D.C. art scene, and it is bringing truly unique digital art pieces to the public. It’s particularly appealing to anyone who enjoys large-scale installations that boast immersive and experiential art. It’s a sensory experience that you are likely to remember long after your vacation has ended.
Head for the National Mall in Washington DC and check out the National Gallery of Art. Built in 1937, the National Gallery of Art is open to the public and free of charge.
Be sure to take a peek at the largest mobile ever created by Alexander Codler, and the only painting ever created by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas – the Ginevra de' Benci. Find your perfect route in on the DC Metro from nearby cities like Sterling and Woodbridge.
Within the National Gallery of Art, discover a large collection of masterpiece works from legendary artists.
You'll want to tour as much of the National Gallery of Art as you can, but be sure to check out The Mill by Rembrandt van Rijn, The Plum by Edouard Manet, and the Woman in White by Vincent van Goh. Bring the whole family or check it out solo on your next business trip.