Weekend at the National Gallery of Art

Visiting the National Gallery of Art


Weekend at the National Gallery of Art

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by kwasiak on February 10, 2008

The National Gallery of Art may not be part of the Smithsonian, but it is still free. Its collections are displayed in two buildings and a garden. Between all that the National Gallery of Art offers you can pretty easily spend a whole weekend just exploring its collections.

The West Building features sculpture galleries of items dating as far back as ancient China, European paintings, and special exhibits. The paintings are mostly from the 13th to 19th century with the collections including French, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish paintings.

The East Building is where you can see modern and contemporary art. There are permanent exhibits, as well as usually a few special exhibits on display here.

The Sculpture Garden is a great place to stroll when the weather is agreeable. It even has a café with indoor as well as outdoor seating. In the winter the center of the garden becomes an ice skating rink.
${QuickSuggestions} Exploring all the art that is on display in the National Gallery of Art can be a daunting task. In particular, the West Building is quite large and even with a quarter of the upper floor gallery space currently closed for renovations it can take many hours to see everything here. It is well worth exploring everything, though, but if you only have a short amount of time or only one day to devote to this attraction then you should plan ahead on what you want to be sure to see. You can view a floor plan of the exhibits on their website (www.nga.gov) to help you plan. For true art lovers that have the time to devote a weekend (or at least two days) then I highly recommend taking it slow. Take time to relax on the many benches and enjoy the paintings or sit and have a bite to eat in one of the cafes.${BestWay} The easiest way to get to the National Gallery of Art is to take the Metro. The nearest stops are Smithsonian on the Blue and Orange lines, Archives/Navy Memorial on the Green and Yellow Lines, and Judiciary Square on the Red Line. If you want to drive here, you could probably find some kind of parking in nearby parking garages, but it can be expensive and usually more of a hassle than its worth. Instead you are better off parking the car at one of the Metro stations that has a parking lot and taking the Metro it into downtown.

National Gallery of Art: West Building

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kwasiak on February 10, 2008

The West Building of the National Gallery of Art is located on Constitution Avenue NW between 4th and 7th Streets NW. It is open between 10am and 5pm Mondays through Saturdays and 11am to 6pm on Sundays. It is only closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

On the Ground Floor most of the space is not gallery space. This is however where you will find the West Building Shop and the Garden Café. The main galleries on this floor are the Sculpture galleries. This area has many different sculptures on display including Chinese pottery, Degas ballerina and horse sculptures, and European Christian artifacts. The Ground Floor also has special exhibit space that usually has between one and three special exhibits open.

The Main Floor is where you will find most of the paintings that are on display here. There is also some special exhibit space up here that usually has one exhibit open when it is not in transition. When I visited in February 2008, part of the exhibit space was close for renovations. This included American and British Art sections of the museum. Thus currently the painting galleries are most mainland European paintings. This is however some of the best of what the collection includes.

A large amount of the painting in the Main Floor galleries are Italian paintings from the 15th to 17th centuries. Be sure not to miss the Leonardo Da Vinci painting here, which is the only one of his paintings on display in America. The French galleries include famous painters such as Monet. In the hallways between the exhibit spaces there are some large sculptures that are mostly humans. There are also the East and West Garden Courts on this level that are great places to relax between taking in the different exhibits.
National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., 20565
(202) 737-4215

National Gallery of Art: East Building

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kwasiak on February 10, 2008

The East Building of the National Gallery of Art is located on Constitution Avenue NW and Pennsylvania NW between 3rd and 4th Streets NW. The hours are 10am to 5pm Mondays through Saturdays and 11am to 6pm on Sundays. It is closed on Christmas and New Year’s.

The galleries in the East Building is the home of the modern and contemporary artwork contained in the National Gallery of Art. The exhibit space is spread out on five floors with permanent and special exhibits. The exhibits include a variety of art from French paintings to mobiles to paper cutouts.

On the Concourse Level of the building there is a bookstore, children’s shop, and a café. The café is also an Espresso Bar and Gelato Bar making it the best place to stop for a snack or meal break at the National Gallery of Art. For a good view of the National Mall while you eat there is the Terrace Café on the Upper Level.

One of the main pieces of art to see here is the Alexander Calder mobile that hangs from the roof of the East Building. It is quite the sight to see with its colorfulness and length of almost 80 feet.

Another one of the more interesting things to see in the East Building are the Matisse paper cutouts, which are displayed on the Tower level. To protect them they are only on display part of the day. The exhibits hours are from 10am to 2pm Mondays through Saturdays and 11am to 3pm on Sundays, so be sure you get up here before the exhibit is closed for the day.
National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., 20565
(202) 737-4215

National Gallery of Art: Sculpture Garden

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kwasiak on February 10, 2008

The Sculpture Garden is located on Constitution Avenue NW between 7th and 9th Streets NW. The garden is open 10am to 5pm Mondays through Saturdays and 11am to 6pm on Sundays.

The garden contains walking paths to stroll along and enjoy the different sculptures in the garden. There is a total of 17 sculptures here, although occasionally one or more is off display for refurbishment or on loan. The sculptures vary in style from the Cluster of Four Cubes that has revolving cube to the Parisian Metro entrance sculpture. One of my favorites is the House sculpture that can appear flat, coming towards you, or going away from you depending on the angle you look at it. Another fun sculpture is the Six-Part Seating, which is the only sculpture you can touch and you are in fact encouraged to sit on these chairs.

In the summer the center of the garden is a fountain, but in the winter this is turned into an ice skating rink. The rink hours are 10am to 9pm Mondays through Thursdays, 10am to 11pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 11am to 9pm on Sundays.

In the garden there is the Pavilion Café where you can sit inside or outside and enjoy a meal or snack. This is a great place to enjoy when the weather is nice and you are tired of being indoors at the National Gallery of Art.
National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., 20565
(202) 737-4215

Special Exhibits at the National Gallery of Art

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kwasiak on February 10, 2008

There are always at least a few special exhibits on display at the National Gallery of Art. To see what is on display when you are planning to visit the National Gallery check their website out at http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/index.shtm. Below is a brief description of the ones that were on display when I visited in early February 2008.

Crosscurrents is a special exhibit on the Ground Floor of the West building. The exhibit is to remain on display on the Ground Floor through January 1, 2009. This exhibit includes American and European paintings from the permanent collection. I found this nice to see when I visited because the American art galleries were closed for renovation and this way I could at least see some American paintings. These paintings are from that part of the building and thus even when this special exhibit closes these paintings will still be on display just back in their home in on the Main Floor. The special exhibit called Homer, Eakins, and Bellows in the East Building is entirely American paintings if that is the type of art you want to see. This exhibit also closes January 1, 2009.

British Picturesque Landscapes is an exhibit on the Ground Floor of the West Building. It is tucked away in the sculpture galleries. The easiest way I know how to explain to get to this one room exhibit is to go through the Chinese pottery exhibit. This exhibit contains books opened to pages that show landscapes. It is on display until February 24, 2008.

The Baroque Woodcut is located in the Special Exhibit space on the Ground Floor of the West Building. This exhibit is on display until March 30, 2008. It contains examples of prints that are made from woodcuts printing blocks. The details on these prints are amazing to think about the work that must have gone into the woodcuts that the prints were made from. I really wish, though, that they had at least one woodcut on display so you can see what the prints are printed from.

Let the World In is located in the Special Exhibit space on the Ground Floor of the West Building. This exhibit is on display until March 30, 2008. This is an interesting exhibit with print media works done by Robert Rauschenberg. They are kind of like collages with different images and words thrown together.

Bronze and Boxwood is an exhibit in the Special Exhibit space on the Main Floor of the West Building. This exhibit is on display until May 4, 2008. This is an exhibit of bronze sculptures, boxwood, and ivory carvings from the Renaissance.

Impressed by Light is an exhibit on the Ground Floor of the West Building. The exhibit displays photos that were made from paper negatives. All the photos were done by British photographers in the mid-1800s.
National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., 20565
(202) 737-4215

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