Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Art in Washington DC

I just got back from a short trip to Washington DC and had the privilege to see exhibits the Freer-Sackler Gallery, the Hirshorn, and the National Gallery of Art. There were also beautiful gardens everywhere, including the sculpture garden at the National Gallery. I also went to the Sakura Matsuri (Japanese Street Fair that is part of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival). The weather couldn't have been more perfect.
The Dead Matador

Jefferson Memorial
First up, some art at the airport! On the way to DC, in a layover at the Dallas airport, we had lunch at a good Tex-Mex restaurant (Awesome margaritas!) and saw this amazingly creepy painting. The waiter had no explanation for's just been on the wall for years.  I was equally surprised to find decent food in an airport and even more excited to find a margarita made with fresh juice rather than sour mix!

Lincoln Memorial
The first day, I did a very cool bus tour around all of the museums and monuments. We were on the open top deck of the double-decker bus- a fun way to see the city. No worries about parking and getting tired from walking. (That was later!) This was at least a 3+ hour excursion but it was cool since you have a different perspective by being so high up: better photos since you are above the crowds and cars and you can get on and off the bus any time to explore. Plus there were a few different routes you could choose from, so we also got to see some historic neighborhoods with beautiful stately homes. There were flowering dogwood trees, azaleas and tulips in bloom everywhere, so it was pretty awesome.
Street corner sculpture
A few cherry trees were still blooming

We even say a really cool sculpture on a street sure who created, we were stopped at a red light.

Me in kimono at Sakura Matsuri

The day after the awesome bus tour, I checked out Sakura Matsuri. Fun, crowded, and a nice festival overall despite being pretty warm that day.
The best two days were visits to the art galleries. First we saw an amazing show of Katsushika Hokusai's Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji at the Sackler Gallery. To see these woodblock prints in person was really amazing. I have seen Japanese woodblock prints in The Netherlands but none by Hokusai. They are truly masterpieces and seeing all 46 prints at once was a rare treat.

The other special exhibit was one of those that you will remember forever: Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Itō Jakuchū at the National Gallery. This show was so visually stunning, it cannot be described. The rendering of the rooster feathers, the golden glow of the phoenix, the way the eyes were painted on the fish, the composition and lush colors, the technical virtuosity is mind blowing. Here is an article that explains a little more about this show. If you can go see it, you will not be disappointed!

Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen,Typewriter Eraser

The Calder Room at the National Gallery

I also saw art from the permanent collections at both the Hirshorn and National Gallery. There are way too many paintings to mention, but standouts were the Dutch collection of Vermeer and Rembrandt protraits; the contemporary artists like Bacon, Du Buffet, Matisse's large scale paper cut outs, Salvador Dali's Last Supper, Calder's mobiles and huge stabiles as well as his circus animals, a huge painting by Robert Motherwell and one by Gerhard Richter.

Vermeer's A Woman Holding  a Balance

Not paint, just light on the walls!

You can walk right into the "blue spaghetti"!

The Hirshorn had a really cool exhibit called Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space. I took a couple of photos of these exhibits (It was allowed!), they were really amazing and some were interactive.

What else? Too much to describe, so here are some more photos: the Smithsonian Castle with the Parterre garden, the White House, and some hidden garden art near the Sackler Gallery.

And finally, if you go, check out these restaurants! I went to these standout eateries: Lebanese Taverna, a very reasonably priced neighborhood restaurant with wonderful food;  Oyamel Cocina Mexicana was a great little lunch spot- try the cafe tables outside on a nice day; and a stunning meal at Zengo, a truly gorgeous restaurant- both the food and the decor made this one of the best dining experiences I have ever had.

PS: Most of these photos were taken by me and copyrighted; all except the Asian art images, the Calder Room and the Vermeer painting, so please ask me if you'd like to borrow any. Thanks!

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