Opened in 1937 as a gift from financier Andrew Mellon to the people of the United States, the National Gallery of Art is the elder statesman among the museums that line the National Mall. You could spend an entire day here and not exhaust this world-class collection. “The Dance Lesson” by Edgar Degas, Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait”, a 76-foot-long mobile by Alexander Calder — there’s something here to satisfy all tastes and interests.
The National Gallery also has a strong track record when it comes to crowd-pleasing exhibits, notably hosting the 1977 Treasures of Tutankhamun, which set the standard for modern museum blockbusters. Its curators continue to impress, recently presenting treasures from Afghanistan’s National Museum, and Designing the Lincoln Memorial: Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon.
While you’re perusing the art, take note of the gallery’s modern, angular East Building, designed by architect I.M. Pei and opened to great fanfare in 1978. It’s considered one of Washington, D.C.’s architectural treasures.
Your visit here won’t be complete without a stop at one of the city’s loveliest green spaces: the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, located on a six-acre plot adjacent to the West Building at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. (in front of the National Archives).
At the garden’s center you’ll find a fountain and pool surrounded by bench seating; the space is transformed into a public ice rink every winter. Enjoy a sandwich or salad on the terrace at the Pavilion Café and take in the garden’s humorous mix of contemporary sculptures. They include a giant bronze spider, a typewriter eraser and a cerebral rabbit sitting on a rock—an irreverent homage to Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece The Thinker.
Check out the Jazz in the Garden concert series, held in the Sculpture Garden Fridays at 5:00 pm, from May through September (see web site for schedule). Arrive early, though —the concerts are extremely popular with Washington, D.C. residents, who like to bring a picnic dinner.
From September through May, you can attend the indoor concert series, usually on Sunday afternoons. See the National Gallery of Art concert schedule here.
From mid-November to early March, check out the National Gallery of Art Ice Rink. The hours of operation are as follows (weather permitting):
Friday and Saturday 11am-11pm
For more information about the ice rink, visit www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/visit/ice-rink.html
For more information about the National Gallery of Art, visit www.nga.gov.
Photos of the National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The gallery is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Parking: Public parking is limited to the surrounding streets and commercial garages.
Metrorail: Orange and Blue Line stops for Smithsonian, Red Line stop for Judiciary Square, and Green/Yellow Line stop for National Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter.