The Phillips Collection started as a humble gallery to honor a deceased father and brother in 1921, and rapidly transformed into a full-fledged modern art museum—America’s first. Set in a stately Georgian Revival brick house that was the former residence of its founder, Duncan Phillips, the museum is now home to more than 4,000 works of Impressionist and contemporary art. Different eras and artistic styles are juxtaposed and regularly rearranged to inspire new connections and conversations. Permanent collection highlights include famous masterpieces like Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party and an intimate Rothko Room installation that was designed in collaboration with the artist himself.
By Susan Mason, AFAR Local Expert
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Modern Art in an Old World Townhome
I love the Phillips Collection, but it’s often hard to convince out-of-town visitors to go there mainly because it’s slightly off the tourist path and you have to pay an admission fee (it’s a private museum). If you even have a remote interest in art, you must put this on your list of D.C. places to visit. Duncan Phillips was born into a wealthy family. The original collection was just a small family collection of paintings displayed in the family home. The current collection numbers around 5,000 works by artists that Phillips favored including Renoir, El Greco, Goya, Cezanne, Manet, Klee, and Rothko. Due to limited space, only a fraction of the collection is on display at any one time, which is perfect for someone like me who likes art but who can only take so much of it at any one time. Having recently returned from Latvia, Rothko’s birthplace, I made a special trip to the Phillips to see the Rothko room, which was specially built by Duncan Phillips in accordance with the wishes of Rothko, who wanted his large, colorful paintings displayed in a very small room. Of course, no trip to the Phillips is complete without seeing the most famous resident in the museum, Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party.” For a touch of the quirky, be sure to check out the Beeswax Room for an art museum experience like no other! The museum has a small cafe and gift shop. Metro stop: Dupont Circle
By Julee K., AFAR Local Expert
1600 21st St NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA
Sun 12pm - 6:30pm
Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am - 5pm
Thur 10am - 8:30pm