Art at your Fingertips – The Luxury of Museum Access in DC

By Jennaway Pearson, Art and the Book MA student

One of the biggest benefits of going to graduate school in D.C. is the access to museums- free museums.  I live on Capitol Hill, work in Logan Circle, and spend most of my school time in Georgetown- seemingly a trifecta of inaccessible places- but the glory of which is that I pass the Mall en route to both.

During the Winter Break I spent many hours walking through the Ai Wei Wei show at the Hirshhorn, which is, undoubtedly, one of the best shows that I have seen since moving here a year and a half ago.  The retrospective is not only thoughtfully curated, particularly the Wei Wei work that greets the viewer outside of the museum and leads you into the main gallery, but the Hirshhorn is an incredible building.  The Smithsonian’s free admission/great location policy allows me to drop in for 20 minutes, and walk out- which has ultimately made the art much more accessible- letting me really check out a few things at a time, or the luxury of looking at something for a second or third time.  The policy also lends itself to going to see shows that I might not pay to see- but, ultimately loved. The Paik show at the Portrait Gallery is one that I would ordinarily skip over, but I was checking out a Rauschenburg print in the adjacent gallery, and wandered in.  Video Art is still not my thing, but his work is really amazing- and certainly not a show I would have ordinarily thought to go see.

Aside from the Smithsonian institutions, the Phillips Collection in Dupont not only has super affordable memberships- but throws pretty great parties in their galleries several times a month.  Leaving with this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/arts/design/nam-june-paik-at-smithsonian-american-art-museum.html?_r=0

Obligated to check out.

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