Thursday, January 04, 2007


Where have you been, my blue-eyed son?

This week's mini-travel photos have left a few wondering whither I've been mini-travelling. Well, Monday's photo is of the Mormon temple in Kensington, MD, taken from the outer loop of the Capital Beltway. Tuesday's photo is of the National Museum of the American Indian. And Wednesday's shot is of the Phillips Collection buildings. I've had a quick spin through some museums in Washington, DC.

I lived in the DC area for eleven years, ending in 1988, and I like to go back when I can and re-visit its museums and galleries — and visit its new ones for the first time. New York has lots too, of course, but I have a particular fondness for the ones in DC. The core of the museum area is The Mall, the rectangle between the US Capitol and the Washington Monument, bordered by Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue. There reside the National Museum of American History (currently closed for renovation), the National Museum of Natural History, the National Gallery of Art, the Hirschhorn Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, and others. Nearby are the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum, which share a building that reopened last year after renovations, the Renwick Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, and many others.

The newest museum on the mall is the National Museum of the American Indian, a beautifully designed building of flowing curves and inviting spaces. It opened in September 2004, and I haven't had a chance to visit it until now. Don't miss this one, now that the crowds have settled down and admission is open. And don't miss having lunch in the cafeteria, which serves foods inspired by native cooking, grouped at serving stations by region.

There are three permanent exhibits:

  • Our Peoples, looking at the different indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, from northern Canada to southern Chile,
  • Our Lives, considering how the native peoples maintain their traditions and coexist with the rest of the 21st-century world, and
  • Our Universe, focusing on native cosmology, traditional beliefs in the stars, the wind, and the land, and teaching us about their people's spiritual relationship with the natural world.
There's a fourth, changing exhibit; the one we saw is just ending, a detailed look at the lives of the peoples of the Pacific Northwest, from the Coast Salish of Oregon and Washington to the Tlingit of Alaska.

Next stop was the National Museum of African Art, along with a brief pass through the Sackler Gallery. Both are underground, and are accessed by entrance lobbies in the garden in front of “The Castle” — the Smithsonian Institution's visitor center.

The National Museum of African Art features carvings and everyday objects from sub-Saharan African tribes throughout the continent. Of particular interest to me is Body of Evidence, a changing exhibition of contemporaty African artists. Look at these wondeful pieces:

Finally, a visit to the Phillips Collection to see the wonderful exibition, “The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America”, which will only be there for another two weeks. This exhibition is worth a trip to DC! The Phillips's permanent collection is impressive (the most famous work in it is Renoir's The Boating Party), but this special exhibition is truly exciting. It heads to the Dallas Museum of Art next, in June.

The Société Anonyme collection includes some fabulous works by Kandinsky, Miró, Picasso, Man Ray, and other famous names. The highlights for me (look for them in the exhibit's Flash show) are:

  • Woman at the Card Table by Finnur Jónsson
  • Metaphysical Interior by Georgio di Chirico
  • The Red Cat by Heinrich Campendonk
  • At the Piano by Nadezhda Udaltsova
  • Brooklyn Bridge by Joseph Stella
  • Abstraction No. 3 by Lawren Stewart Harris

A nice whirlwind trip!

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