Smithsonian American Art Museum
Backstory and Context
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is an institution which preserves and displays remarkable works produced by American artists over three centuries. The Greek Revival building where the museum is located, originally housed the US Patent Office. Designed by architects Robert Mills and Thomas U. Walter the building is Registered National Landmark. The museum shares its historic building with the National Portrait Gallery, another Smithsonian museum. The two museums are collectively known as the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
Since 1972, the American Art Museum has also included the Renwick Gallery, which is the home for the Smithsonian Institution’s craft and decorative arts program. Located near the White House in a Second Empire-style building, the Renwick features the best in two centuries of American clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood arts. Visitors can enjoy traditional native and folk crafts, fine furniture, oil paintings, and whimsical contemporary glass sculpture.
The museum also features two innovative public spaces: the Luce Foundation Center for American Art, situated on the third and fourth floor of the museum; and the Lunder Conservation Center, which allows visitors the unique opportunity to see conservators at work in five different laboratories and studios in the building.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum represent more than 7,000 artists, and includes the nation's first and one of the world's largest and most inclusive collections of art made in the United States, from the colonial period to the present. The museum’s collection includes more than 41,000 artworks, spanning more than three centuries, including artwork from masters such as John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Helen Frankenthaler, Christo, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Lee Friedlander, Roy Lichtenstein, Nam June Paik, Martin Puryear, and Robert Rauschenberg.
Aside it’s permanent collection The Smithsonian American Art Museum has maintained a traveling exhibition program since 1951. About 1,000 major artworks from the museum’s permanent collection traveled to 105 venues across the United States during the renovation of the museum from 2000 to 2006.