National Gallery of Art

Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565, USA

With two buildings and a sculpture garden, the National Gallery of Art is a treasure-filled trifecta where each person’s gems will only be uncovered through an immersive day (or more) of cultural exploration. The West Building is a chronological history lesson of Western art that showcases masters including Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, and van Gogh. Continue through time by taking the moving walkway under the 41,000-LED Multiverse light installation to the contemporary East Building. Here, Alexander Calder’s largest mobile hangs from the atrium roof, works from Warhol and Pollack are featured, and Katharina Fritsch’s 15-foot blue rooster sculpture stands proud on the rooftop terrace. Back on the ground, the Sculpture Garden is the perfect place to reflect on the day.

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Friday Jazz at the Sculpture Garden

“You are now listening to the sounds of the Deanna Bogart band, specializing in Blues Fusion (“Blusion”)...” Every Friday evening, usually from the end of May to the end of August, the National Gallery of Art offers free outdoor jazz performances throughout the summer from 5:30pm - 8:00pm. Visitors and locals can enjoy listening to a variety of catchy sounds and styles - including salsa, xylophone, percussion, keyboards, Afrofunk, and big-band swing, while having cocktails (go for the sangrias!) and light dinner fare at the Gallery’s Pavilion Café and Outdoor Sculpture Garden, surrounded with modern and contemporary sculpture from the likes of Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, Louise Burgeois, and more. Bring your friends and picnic blankets and come early for best seats along the fountain or on the grass. Schedule of performances is featured on the Gallery’s website.

National Gallery of Art - West Building

The National Gallery of Art West Building opened in 1941, and the nucleus of its collection was a gift to the nation from wealthy financier and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, whose dream was to construct and house an art collection for the American people. It contains one of the world’s most foremost collections of European and American paintings, sculpture, and prints, dating from the 13th century to the present day. Old Masters such as Botticelli, Titian, and Raphael; portraits by Rembrandt and Vermeer; Impressionist paintings of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, and Cassatt, and “Ginevra de’Benci,” the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas are some of the highlights that await you inside.

Art in the Wings

When we were kids, my parents would take (okay, drag) us to visit the Smithsonian Art Museums. I dreaded those trips. What kid wants to spend an afternoon looking at canvases with indecipherable images on them? The one exception was the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. I have loved this museum ever since I first set foot in it. From then until now, one of my favorite pieces in the museum’s collection is the giant Alexander Calder mobile that hangs from the roof of the entry hall. I will forever marvel at its simple beauty and wonder at how all the metal fins balance so perfectly. Did you know that despite its size, the mobile gently moves just from the movement of the air caused by people walking around the entry hall? How did Calder figure out to engineer this beautiful work of his? As an adult, I look forward to going to the museum to revisit its permanent collections and to check out the temporary exhibitions. After I finish with the exhibits in the East Wing, I take the tunnel over to the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art. I can easily spend an entire day just visiting the two Wings and when the weather is nice, I venture out to the sculpture garden to see the large works by artists including Calder, David Smith, and Claes Oldenburg. If you come to D.C., you have to visit the National Gallery of Art—if not for you, then for me. I need someone to tell me how Calder created that beautiful mobile of his!

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