Conceived as the nation's museum of modern and contemporary art, the Hirshhorn is home to nearly 12,000 works by masters who include Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, and Louise Bourgeois, as well as contemporary superstars Anish Kapor and Yinka Shonibare. The art is displayed in a circular 1974 poured-concrete building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft, that was dubbed the "Doughnut on the Mall" when it was built. Most of the collection was bequeathed by the museum's founder, Joseph H. Hirshhorn, a Latvian immigrant who made his fortune in uranium mines.
The sculpture collection has masterpieces by Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti, and Constantin Brancusi. Outside, sculptures dot a grass-and-granite garden. Among them is a 32-foot-tall yellow cartoon sculpture by pop-art iconographer Roy Lichtenstein that has become a beloved local landmark.
Inside, the third level is the place to see dramatic postwar art from the museum's permanent collection, displayed
thematically, with works by artists such as Joseph Cornell, Isa Genzken, Alighiero e Boetti, and Sol LeWitt. Be sure to check out Cornell's Untitled (Aviary with Yellow Birds) and Yoko Ono's Sky TV for Washington. Large-scale text works by conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner round out the space.
The second level houses exhibits that rotate about three times a year, curated by museum staff and devoted to particular artists or themes. Surrealist Sculptures: Arp vs. Duchamp is on view through February 15, 2016.
The lower level houses recent and experimental works from the permanent collection, as well as the Black Box, a space for moving-image installations.
The sculpture garden makes an inspiring spot for a picnic.
Have a question? Seek out the museum's Gallery Guides, who wear question-mark badges.
About three times a year the museum hosts Hirshhorn After Hours events: parties that last until midnight and feature performance art, live music, dancing, and gallery talks.
The museum regularly screens premieres of independent, experimental, and documentary films.