It’s easy to take great things for granted – especially if they’ve been the way they are for your whole life. Having said that, the idea that you can visit one of the world’s leading collections of art and not even have to pay an entry fee is pretty incredible. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has works by famous painters like Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Edgar Degas (and the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the United States), as well as less known but equally brilliant artists like Giovanni Batista Piranesi and Hubert Robert, two of my personal favorites.
The main building, or the West Building, was designed by architect John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives. The museum was established in 1937 and opened in 1941. It was built on the site of the train station where President James Garfield was assassinated, and at the time was the world’s largest marble structure. The original collection of artwork was donated by Pittsburgh banking magnate Andrew Mellon, and must have given him bragging rights over fellow Pittsburgh philanthropists who established museums like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick.
The East Building was built to house the museum’s collection of Modern art and was completed in 1978. Designed by architect I. M. Pei, it is connected to the West Building via an underground concourse that features an installation called Multiverse by Leo Villareal consisting of 41,000 LED lights. The outdoor National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden was added in 1999.
As it is considered one of the best museums in the United States, it’s hard to overstate what a treasure the National Gallery of Art is. No trip through Washington D.C. should be without a stop to one of its museums, and the National Gallery of Art is one you’ll want to return to again and again.
Matthew Christopher District of Columbia Washington Jan 27, 2022 Visual Arts