May 4, 2013

If You're Ever In DC: The Hirshhorn and the NGA

I feel like tourists mostly hit up three select Smithsonian museums - the Air and Space, the Natural History and the American History. I always see tourists in comfortable walking shoes, squinting at their maps of the mall, complaining to the rest of their families that they just can't find one of the three so much that they're almost DC landmarks themselves. I'm still wondering if that desperate looking family that I saw outside the Archives metro stop ever found the Air and Space. Who knows why they didn't get off at Smithsonian but I hope they're alive out there.

I know those three are pretty child friendly museum and pack a lot of the most "worthwhile" artifacts, like the Hope Diamond and the ruby slippers. I'm not knocking those museums because I think they're pretty great and I can spend hours in them myself. However, if you're ever in DC, I think you should make time for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the National Gallery of Art. They're almost directly across from one another on the mall, give or take another building or two, and they make a great activity for a summer day. You can spend time outside enjoying the weather as you walk around the Hirshhorn's garden and then cool off in the air conditioned NGA. Plus, you'll get a nice sampling of the different kinds of art DC has to offer with ancient through the ever popular impressionism in the NGA West, modern in the NGA East and modern through contemporary in the Hirshhorn. If your time is limited, the buildings themselves are works of art with the neoclassical design of the NGA West and I.M. Pei's airy, modern design for NGA East. Plus, the sculpture garden makes a nice walk through even if the Hirshhorn is too high brow or "I could do that" inducing for you.

To top it off, the NGA has some pretty great exhibits in addition to a wonderful permanent collection. I saw a Durer exhibit this week that was amazing if not only for the fact that you're looking at incredibly detailed watercolors from the 15th century. Just art closer in age to the Magna Carta than America itself. As if that weren't enough there was a s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g Pre-Raphaelite exhibit. It ends on the 19th of May so I'd hurry if you want to see some great Victorian kitsch. Millais' Ophelia alone was worth the price of admission (if there even was a price of admission) and I could have parked my butt in front of it for hours. All the pieces are incredibly detailed, laughably self involved and great commentary on mid 19th century Great Britain. I'll probably be back again before the exhibit closes - it's one of the ones where I just want to move at a glacial pace, examining every last detail of the works.

Sorry for all the hastily snapped cell phone photos. Not very glamorous, I know.

 Junot Munoz Last Conversation Piece 1994 Hirshhorn Museum Washington DC 
Junot Munoz, Last Conversation Piece, 1994 at the Hirshhorn Museum

 Leo Villareal Multiverse NGA National Gallery of Art light lights walkway concourse Washington DC
 My favorite place in all of DC, or between Atlantic City and half of Virginia for that matter, is the underground concourse between the NGA East and West buildings. It's a moving walkway that connects the two buildings' fantastic gift shops with Leo Villareal's stunning light up sculpture "Multiverse" overhead. I typically get off one walkway and just climb back on the opposite side and ride it a couple times before making my way into the other building. It's breathtaking to see in person.

I'm in love with looking up at this Calder installation and seeing Pei's ceiling in the background. In love. Obsessed. It speaks to me. Pei is probably my all time favorite architect. If his work looks familiar, you probably know him from the v polarizing Louvre Pyramid or Boston's landmark Hancock Tower.

 China Glaze Up and Away 2010 Spring Collection Heli-yum Peachy Keen
 My nails for the day - China Glaze Heli-Yum and Peachy Keen. There will probably never be a spring collection that tops the Up and Away 2010 collection.

Consider one of those two museums if you ever make it to DC. I think a 15 minute walk through the NGA is more than worth it even if you're pressed for time. Add a couple Monets onto your list of things you saw in the district. I promise, it's worth it.

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