The Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.
The museum houses more than 41,000 artworks. They tell the story of America through the visual arts and represent the most inclusive collection of American art of any museum today.
This is first art collection, predating the 1846 founding of the Smithsonian Institution. The museum’s permanent collection is featured in different installations. Three major ones are “American Experience,” “American Art through 1940” and contemporary works in the Lincoln Gallery.
Feel the Art
One unique feature of museum is the Luce Foundation Center for American Art. These three floors, library-like “open-storage” facility is unique in Washington. It allows visitors, for the first time, to take a behind-the-scenes look at 3,300 works from the museum’s vaults that were not chosen for display in the public galleries.
This is a three-story skylight space. Interactive computer kiosks provide information about each object on display. A variety of programs are offered in the center, including themed scavenger hunts for children, a weekly sketching workshop and Art with Coffee tours and musical performances.
The museum represents the art and artists of the United States of all regions, cultures, and traditions. More than 7,000 American artists are represented in the collection.
Notable ones are John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Robert Rauschenberg, Nam June Paik, Martin Puryear, etc.
The museum’s holdings include Colonial portraiture, 19th century landscape, American impressionism, 20th century realism and abstraction, New Deal projects, African American art, Latino art, and folk art.
A private citizen, John Varden, set out to create a national museum based his own private collection of art. By 1836, Varden opened a public gallery called the Washington Museum, later forming the “National Institute” in 1841 to exhibit his collection in the Patent Office building.
The foundation of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846 led to the disbanding of Varden’s institute, and the works in the collection were dispersed to various Smithsonian buildings. Eventually, the museum’s American art-focused collection would return to its former home in the Patent Office building.
This was rescued from demolition by an act of Congress in 1958. The museum opened to the public in the refurbished building in 1968.
Even if you are not art enthusiast you should go you will really enjoy this museum. The collection is so varied, that there is likely to be something that everyone will find interesting. The courtyard with snack bar is a peaceful place to relax and take a break.
-Written by Mukesh Shah, OnBoard Tours Staff Writer