Washington, D.C. Travel Guide

Washington, D.C. Sights

Smithsonian American Art Museum

  • 8th and G Sts. NW Map It
  • Downtown

Published 07/20/2015

Fodor's Review

From Georgia O'Keeffe's stunning Yellow Calla painting to Michael Crocker's Elvis Presley Face Jug #4, the Smithsonian American Art Museum features one of the world's largest collections of American art spanning more than four centuries. Over the past few decades, the museum has broadened its collection to include modern and contemporary art. Among the artists represented are Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Isamu Noguchi, and Robert Rauschenberg. The museum shares a National Historic Landmark building with the National Portrait Gallery.

On the first floor, you'll discover carved Baboon and Gorilla by Felipe Archuleta, oils by Isabel Bishop and Jennie Cell, Irving Dominick's galvanized iron Marla, an enormous tinfoil altarpiece by James Hampton, and the colorful Miss Liberty Celebration by Malcah Zeldis.

The collection galleries on the second floor link artworks to major moments in America's past,

from the American Colonies and the founding of the new republic to early modernism.

The museum has the largest collection of New Deal art and the finest collection of American impressionist paintings, including canvasses of Mary Cassatt and Gilded Age portraits by John Singer Sargent.

The museum's third floor features modern and contemporary paintings and sculpture and the Watch This! gallery where you can see a selection of works from the museum's media art and film collection.

Upcoming exhibitions of note include: Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty through March 20, 2016 featuring 240 of Penn's photos, many of which have never been exhibited before; and Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection, through April 3, 2016.

At any given time, much of the museum's holdings is in storage, but you can view more than 3,000 artworks in its Luce Foundation Center, a visible storage space on the third and fourth floors.

At the Lunder Conservation Center visitors can watch the museum's conservators working.

Free Wi-Fi is available in the Kogod Courtyard, enclosed by a canopy designed by Norman Foster.

Don't miss 21st Century Consort, the museum's ensemble-in-residence, who perform a series of concerts inspired by artworks on view with preconcert discussions, in the McEvoy Auditorium.

The Courtyard Café offers casual dining, drinks, snacks, and views of interior landscaping.

Free docent-led tours are available every day at 12:30 and 2.

The museum regularly holds lectures, films, and evenings of live jazz in its auditorium and courtyard. There's a themed family program every month with entertainment and crafts.

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Sight Information


8th and G Sts. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20001, USA

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Sight Details:

  • Free

Published 07/20/2015


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