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The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, which houses George Washington University's permanent art collection, boasts a whopping 3,800 works of art. The university began collecting art in 1821, and has been expanding its collection ever since. Today, the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery includes some of the most iconic American paintings from the 18th Century, including Gilbert Stuart's Monro-Lenox Full-Length Portrait of George Washington. The gallery also runs the Campus Loan Project, which allows pieces from the permanent collection to be hung in public spaces around the university campus.
Famous and distinguished Americans are honored at the National Portrait Gallery in portraits, photographs and other visual media. A wide variety of politicians, artists, scientists and social activists are represented. This gallery is a remarkable testimony to the diverse figures the United States has produced, from Grace Kelly and Boris Karloff to George Washington, Mickey Mantle and Gertrude Stein. Photographs, prints, drawings and sculptures supplement the paintings. Of particular interest is the Hall of Presidents, which features a portrait or sculpture of each chief executive.
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.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is located just a short walk from the National Gallery of Art. The garden features sculptures from the National Gallery's collection, as well as pieces from traveling exhibitions. Sit down on a bench and marvel at the fusion of man-made and natural beauty that this garden affords. The garden also contains a large water fountain that is transformed into an ice rink in the winter, and a cafe where visitors can grab a pastry to enjoy among the sculptures and flowers.
The National Museum of African Art brings the art and history of Africa to life through its comprehensive collection spanning millennia. From ancient times to the modern age, this museum takes you on a voyage of discovery of the diverse cultural and social fabric of this vast continent as you explore over 9,000 objects from virtually every African country. Beyond simply being a display room, the museum seeks to create a dialog between visitors and itself via educational talks, thematic exhibitions, films, storytelling workshops, music, and more. Highlights include the "Africa ReViewed: The Photographic Legacy of Eliot Elisofon," "African Cosmos: Stellar Arts," classical treasures, African textiles, and artful animals. A part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of African Art is the only national level museum dedicated to preserving African art.
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.
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.
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.