The Smithsonian American Art Museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of American art. View iconic paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Norman Rockwell; visionary folk art by William H. Johnston and Howard Finster; colonial portraits by John Singleton Copley; and multimedia art by William Christenberry and video art by Nam June Paik. The museum’s sister facility is the Renwick Gallery, which showcases contemporary craft and decorative art.
The museum shares space with the National Portrait Gallery inside a magnificent Greek Revival-style building constructed between 1836 and 1868 to house the U.S. Patent Office. Union troops used the structure as a hospital during the Civil War.
A much-needed renovation completed in 2006 kept many original architectural designs, including porticoes, columns, vaulted galleries, and skylights, and modified other features, like the interior courtyard, to truly cool effect. The courtyard often serves as a stage for concerts. The museum has a cafe, whose American fare includes a kids’ menu. Stop by the museum’s shops for handcrafted jewelry, scarves, and artwork, as well as art books, stationery, and CDs.
At the Luce Foundation Center, a unique, storage center open to the public, you can see some of the 3,000 works from the museum’s permanent collection, items not displayed in the museum’s main exhibits.
Tip: Check the website for scavenger hunts, sketching classes and other special programs at the Luce facility.
At the glass-enclosed conservation lab watch the painstaking “mending” of artworks.
DC’s third oldest federal building sits front and center in the Penn Quarter, surrounded by trendy restaurants, shops, and bars.
Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown on the Red, Yellow, and Green Lines. Either exit. Or take the DC Circulator.