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Where to see art in Washington, DC
Since Leigh Conner and Jamie Smith opened their gallery in 1999, they have been showing prints, photographs, paintings and sculptures by the kind of cutting-edge artists Washingtonians usually travel to New York to see. The pair’s expansive gallery on Florida Avenue, NE, is unrivalled in DC—the massive, flexible space has played host to Leo Villareal (whose LED-based light sculpture Multiverse is in the National Gallery of Art’s collection) and video artist Federico Solmi. Strong shows by DC’s younger artists have been well received.
This mansion was opened as a gallery in the 1920s by Marjorie and Duncan Phillips as a memorial to his father. The building was remodeled in the 1960s and underwent further renovation in the ’80s, when an extension increased its space by almost 20,000sq ft. In 2006, the museum unveiled its Sant Building, another expansion project that added airy galleries for modern art, an outdoor sculpture terrace and café, an art and technology laboratory and an auditorium. The museum’s signature painting, Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, enjoys pride of place in the permanent collection galleries. There, significant Van Gogh oils rub shoulders with Steiglitz prints and a solid selection of works by Picasso, Paul Klee, Bacon, Vuillard and Rothko—that is, if a traveling show hasn’t deposed them temporarily.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
The Sackler contains some of the most important holdings of Asian art in the world. It has more flexibility than its neighbor, the Freer Gallery, whose mandate forbids the exhibition of anything from outside its collection. The Sackler, on the other hand, stages international loan exhibitions of Asian art (a recent show featured Ai Wei Wei). Connected to the Freer by an underground passageway, the Sackler was built up around a 1,000-piece Asian art gift from Dr Arthur M Sackler. Visitors enter through architects Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott’s first-floor granite pavilion (a similar pavilion, by the same firm, is at the National Museum of African Art). You then head below ground into a maze of overlapping bridges and long passageways that give the feel of an ancient temple.