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Washington, D.C. Sights

Phillips Collection

  • 1600 21st St. NW Map It
  • Dupont Circle

Updated 05/23/2014

Fodor's Review

The first museum of modern art in the country, the masterpiece-filled Phillips Collection is unique in origin and content. It opened in 1921 in the Georgian Revival mansion of collector Duncan Phillips, who wanted to showcase his art in a museum that would stand as a memorial to his father and brother. Having no interest in a painting's market value or its faddishness, Phillips searched for pieces that impressed him as outstanding products of a particular artist's unique

vision. At the heart of the collection are impressionist and modern masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Pierre Bonnard, and Henri Matisse. By combining works of different nationalities and periods in displays that change frequently, the Phillips makes for a museum-going experience that is as intimate as it is inspiring. The domestic scale and personal atmosphere encourage visual conversations among the works.


The collection's most famous piece is Renoir's magnificent work of Impressionism, Luncheon of the Boating Party. Other celebrity works include Degas's Dancers at the Barre, van Gogh's Entrance to the Public Garden at Arles, and Cézanne's intense, piercing self-portrait.

The glowing, chapel-like Rothko Room emerged from a bond between Phillips and modern master Mark Rothko. Rothko said he preferred to exhibit his paintings in smaller, more intimately scaled rooms, and Phillips designed the gallery specifically to the artist's preferences.

A single lightbulb illuminates the mesmerizing and contemplative 42-square-foot, 10-feet-high Laib Wax Room, created by artist Wolfgang Laib specifically for the Phillips. Designed with 440 pounds of melted golden beeswax, it is the first permanent wax room in the U.S.

Jacob Lawrence's epic Migration Series portrays the mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North beginning in World War I.


On Thursday, The Phillips is open until 8:30 pm. and, on the first Thursday of the month, Phillips after 5 ($12) combines live music, gallery talks, food, and a cash bar. Reservations are strongly advised.

Music at The Phillips, a tradition since 1941, is a concert series held on Sunday at 4 from October through May in the oak-paneled music room. Tickets are $30 and include museum admission that day. Advance reservations are recommended.

Take a break in Tryst at the Phillips café, overlooking the museum courtyard.

Spotlight Talks, 15 minutes long and focusing on one artwork, are offered Tuesday to Friday at noon. Tours are also offered at noon on weekends: an introduction to the permanent collection on Saturday and special exhibitions on Sunday. Tours are unreserved and included in admission.

Download the Phillips's free app (using the museum's free public Wi-Fi) to learn more about the works in the galleries during your visit.

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Sight Information


1600 21st St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20009, United States

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Sight Details:

  • Free for permanent collection weekdays; admission varies weekends and for special exhibitions
  • Tues.–Sat. 10–5 (to 8:30 Thurs.), Sun. 11–6

Updated 05/23/2014


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