On our recent trip to DC on March 16, 2012, the rain was a major influence in our choice of places to see that day. We were planning to just walk the mall and chill, recovering from our early morning flight from Miami.
My wife had this museum on her radar for later in our stay to our nation's Capitol. It was a couple of blocks from the Fairfield Inn & Suites where we were staying. We dodged the drizzle and walked into this wonderful museum located at 8th and F Streets, NW. This building was once the home of the US Patent Office and is considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. It was also the site of Abraham Lincoln's inaugural ball in March 1864. Since 1968, it has been the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. We asked one of the volunteers where should we start our visit. He enthusiastically told us to start at The Art of Video Games exhibit on the third floor that opened today.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum tells the stories of America throught the visual arts. This collection spans more than three centuries of creativity of artists whose works are windows on the American experience.
The National Portrait Gallery tells the history of America through the individuals who have shaped the culture of America. Presidents, poets, actors and activists, villains and visionaries whose lives tell the American story are displayed.
Interesting exhibitions are continually changing. The Art of Video Games is one of the first exhibitions that explores the forty year evolution of video games as an artistic medium. Panel discussions, hands on activities, and the film TRON were highlghts the first day. Annie Leibovitz:Pilgrimage, one of America's best known living photographers, and Inventing a Better Mousetrap, were some of the exhibitions we enjoyed on March 16.
We enjoyed the art and folk art from Grandma Moses and her self taught peers displayed on the first floor of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This New York boy enjoyed a Georgia O'Keefe work of Manhattan in the 1930's. There is also a priceless portrait of Ben Franklin when he was a diplomat in France. This is the picture that is engraved on the one hundred dollar bill. The Portraiture and portraits of famous Americans from the sixteen through the nineteen hundreds are on the first floor of the National Portrait Gallery.
On the second floor of the American Art Museum was American Art through 1940. Portraits of America's Presidents from Washington to Obama were on the second floor of the Portrait Gallery. Our guide told us a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart is regarded as the most famous of all Washington paintings. It was commissioned in 1796 by a wealthy Philadelphia merchant. He gave it to the Marquis of Lansdowne of Great Britain who was a major supporter of American independence. Albert Bierstadt's painting, Among the Sierra Nevada, California, is his vision of the American West mixing scenes of different places.
The third floor features art since 1945, including Andy Warhol's silk screen of Michael Jackson and a wonderful face of Marilyn Monroe. There was a bizarre neon road trip on an electronic superhighway across America by Nam June Paik. We thoroughly enjoyed a lifelike human figure of a woman sitting at a table eating by Duane Hanson. More than one person thought this figure was alive! We also enjoyed a fabulous portrait of Katherine Hepburn and her four Oscars, portraits of 20th Century Americans, the Luce Foundation storage area, and an area where conservators restore works of art.
These museums located at 8th and F Street, NW are open daily from 11:30 am to 7 pm. If you enjoy art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are winners.
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