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Best Contemporary Art in Washington DC

By: Cityseeker
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Renwick Gallery

Designed by architect James Renwick, who also designed the Smithsonian Castle, this gallery was the home of the Corcoran Art Collection until it outgrew the building. Currently, the Renwick is among the foremost craft museums in the country. It includes a full array of the art form, from handwoven rugs to Shaker furniture. The museum shop is a treasure trove of art and books honoring fine craftsmanship. The place reopened in 2015 after undergoing 2 years of renovations.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Museum of Women in the Arts

The history of the female artist is a sub-theme in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which houses the works of women artists from the 16th Century to the present. The comfortable mid-range scale of the museum is ideal for leisurely viewing of the permanent and visiting exhibitions. Painting and sculpture are nicely balanced with the decorative arts and photography.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection retains the 19th-century grandeur enjoyed by the Phillips family. The collection was opened to the public in 1918 while the family was still living in the home. The collection displays mostly 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings. Significant works by Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bonnard and Klee are on display. One can browse at leisure and perhaps, catch an art student working on a sketch. A cafe is also on site.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum takes you on a journey of discovery of iconic American art and the artists that created it from the 17th Century to the present day. The building itself is of heritage value and designated a National Historic Landmark. The expansive collection is spread out over multiple levels and there is a spacious courtyard where you can take a break. Discover the works of Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keefe on the first floor; the works of Gilbert Stuart and Albert Bierstadt on the second, and Franz Kline and Andy Warhol on the third. Various art movements and periods are well demonstrated in the carefully curated exhibits, like New Deal Art, and provide an engaging narrative for the visitor to follow. Docent-led tours are a great way to discover the highlights in an interactive way. The Renwick Gallery, the main building's sister wing, is also worth a visit.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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Art Museum of the Americas

The Art Museum of the Americas works to showcase artists whose compelling works speak to political or social issues. This engaging museum was originally founded in 1917 as the Visual Arts Unit of the Pan American Union, but opened its doors as the Art Museum of the Americas in 1976. The museum boasts an impressive collection of important contemporary Latin American and Caribbean works, as well as hosting rotating exhibits that display the work of both emerging and established artists. The museum also runs educational programs and hosts events like free screenings of socially and politically-geared documentaries.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery houses an extensive collection of European and American art in two spectacular buildings. In the grand, neoclassical West Building, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough are well-represented. The permanent collection includes works from the 13th to 20th Centuries, including a section devoted to Impressionism. An underground concourse with a cafeteria, an excellent gift shop and a walled-in waterfall takes you to the East Building. Designed by I.M. Pei, this triangular building is a key city landmark and home to famous pieces of art and other temporary exhibitions.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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Freer Gallery of Art

One of two Smithsonian museums that feature Asian art, the Freer Gallery houses more than 26000 works from all points of the Asian continent, including China, Japan, Korea and India. These works include Asian porcelains, Japanese screens and Islamic art. The works of American artists influenced by Asia are also featured. The most spectacular of these is James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room, designed for a British shipping magnate and moved to the United States from London in 1904. The Sackler Gallery is interconnected with this gallery via underground exhibition space and houses an impressive collection of Chinese paintings, ceramics and jades.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's focus is the collection of early Chinese jades and bronzes donated by Arthur M. Sackler—a wealthy medical researcher and publisher. However, the museum houses a variety of Asian art dating as far back as 3000 BC. Displays of special note include Persian manuscripts, Indian paintings and Japanese prints. Works from China, Southeast Asia, Korea and Tibet are also featured. Concerts and art performances augment the visitor's tour. There is also a hands-on kids program called ImaginAsia with crafts, storytelling and more.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is located just down the street from the National Air and Space Museum. Visitors stroll up a rising, circular incline and view works by Calder, Rodin, and contemporary sculptors. Special exhibits have included works by such artists as Mircea Cantor, Rivane Neuenschwander, and Morris Louis. This unique building is home to many innovative and unusual exhibits and pieces of art. The museum's collection includes 4,000 paintings and 2,000 sculptures. Do not miss the sunken sculpture garden across Jefferson Drive. Auguste Rodin's Burghers of Calais is a must-see.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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The Fridge DC

The Fridge is small-scale art gallery nestled in a corner of 8th Street on Capitol Hill. This gallery is quite easy to miss unless you're a member of the street art and graffiti art community. The founder and owner Alex Goldstein, who sits in a corner of the gallery has transformed the Fridge into the unofficial hub for graffiti art by offering artistic space for performance artists to traverse through their inner creativity. The gallery hosts live art events, dance performances, plays and live paintings.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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Kreeger Museum

Set among the fashionable Foxhall Road estates in upper northwest Washington, the former residence of Carmen and David Kreeger holds a marvelous collection of 19th and 20th-century art. Artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky and Rodin are represented, among many other artists. A fine collection of African art is also housed here. The Kreeger Museum's grounds also feature a sculpture garden. However, the museum requires some advance planning to visit since reservations are required to join the docent-led tours, but the effort is well worth it.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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American University Museum

The American University Museum, which is located in American University's Katzen Arts Center, selects the art that is displayed based on the values of the university. International and political art makes up much of the museum's collection because the university is committed to political engagement and social justice. There is also a good deal of local art on display thanks to the university's involvement in the shaping of the regional contemporary art scene. The museum has several permanent collections, including an extensive sculpture garden, as well as rotating art exhibits that display regional, national, and international contemporary art.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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