The National Gallery of Art houses an amazing collection of art in two buildings plus its outdoor sculpture garden. The East Building showcases mostly modern art and the West Building, housing everything else. A renovated East Building re-opened in September 2016 with more than 12,250-square feet of additional space, including a new roof terrace–take in the views of Pennsylvania Avenue–and two new tower galleries. Many people are surprised to learn that the National Gallery of Art is not part of the Smithsonian. The facility is a legacy of financier Andrew W. Mellon who created a public gallery to house his personal collection.
The original East Building, designed by I. M. Pei, opened in 1978. It’s devoted to 20th and 21st century art. Galleries showcase work by Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollack, Roy Lichtenstein and others.
The original West Building, designed by noted architect John Russell Pope, is one of the largest marble structures in the world. Wonders inside include works by da Vinci, Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Allow time to peruse the Sculpture Garden adjacent to the West Building where you can meander among works by Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, and Claes Oldenburg.
Check out the free guided tours, lectures, and education programs at both buildings.
In addition to its permanent collection galleries, the National Gallery mounts blockbuster special exhibits of works pulled from its own collections and on loan from other institutions. One example: Vermeer and his contemporaries.
Tip: Stroll through the outdoor Sculpture Garden, a great city oasis. Some 19 sculptures by artists such as Mark di Suvero and Louise Bourgeois are positioned throughout six green acres centered on a large circular fountain. In summer, enjoy jazz concerts and in winter, ice skate in the heart of the city.
Need further enticements? The National Gallery of Art has several cafes, excellent gift shops, and hosts concerts, lectures, and films.
Metro: Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter on the Yellow and Green Lines or Gallery Place/Verizon Center on the Red, Yellow and Green Lines. 7th and F St. exit
TRANSIT: You’re closest to the Archives metro stop, (green, yellow), but Judiciary Square (red) isn’t too far either. The Smithsonian station (blue, orange) is across the Mall and west a little ways. Buses running nearby are the 11Y, 52, 13F, 13G, N3, and X1.