Washington, D.C. is so much more than the White House, monuments and memorials. It’s a cultural capital with leading restaurants, top music venues and fantastic museums – particularly those dedicated to art. While the Smithsonian museums lining “America’s front yard” are worth their popularity, take some time to venture a few blocks away and dig into a few of D.C.’s top-notch public art collections.
National Gallery of Art
It’s worth coming to this free museum just to see Leonardo da Vinci’s captivating, 543-year-old portrait of the solemn Ginevra de’ Benci, the only da Vinci masterpiece on public display this side of the Atlantic. But make no mistake, there’s plenty more to see at the grand National Gallery of Art on Constitution Avenue between 4th and 9th streets. Rembrandt’s moody Self-Portrait, Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen sculpture, Pollock’s Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), Calder’s Vertical Constellation with Bomb sculpture — these are just some of the highlights of their impressive collection housed in two buildings and a sculpture garden. Join one of the free guided tours offered daily and don’t forget to snap a picture with the big blue rooster, Hahn/Cock (2013) by Katharina Fritsch, on the Roof Terrace.
Art comes in many different forms, and The Textile Museum on 21st Street NW on George Washington University’s Foggy Bottom Campus is dedicated to the beauty and history of fabric as a medium. The museum possesses a number of globally significant collections containing more than 20,000 textiles representing five millennia and five continents. Highlights include one of the world’s most important research collections of Oriental carpets, a top assemblage of pre-Hispanic Peruvian textiles and one of North America’s largest ikat collections.
The Phillips Collection
While the National Gallery of Art boasts 83 paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (only eight of which are on display), the Phillips Collection has only one, the sizeable Luncheon of the Boating Party — but, according to one sassy docent (and numerous art collectors and historians) it’s the painter’s best work. This private collection on 21st Street NW is known as “America’s first museum of modern art” and houses more than 4,000 works from masters of French impressionism, such as Renoir, to American modernism, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, to contemporary art, including a room dedicated to an installation by Wolfgang Laib.