Growing up with an art major for a mother, I was dragged to museum after museum. While my 10-year-old self wasn’t too happy, looking back, I’ve grown to appreciate every Washington, D.C., exhibit my mom took me to. Being so close to D.C., it’s important to take advantage of the city’s plethora of free museums. From the Hirshhorn Museum to the National Museum of American History, museums offer so many types of exhibits.
Take some time this holiday season to visit D.C. with family or friends. Here are seven exhibits available for viewing in November.
1. “Picturing the American Buffalo: George Catlin and Modern Native American Artists,” opened Oct. 11
The Smithsonian American Art Museum opened an exhibit in October featuring depictions of the American buffalo, an animal that used to roam North America en masse in the 19th century. The buffalo has been a prominent figure in American art for a long time. Many people forget how vital buffalo were to people’s livelihoods in the 1800s, and the exhibit serves a good reminder as to what happens when humans over-hunt and misuse animals.
2. “Pat Steir: Color Wheel,” opened Oct. 24
Not only does the Hirshhorn have wacky and eccentric exhibits, but the building itself is also fun to be in. The cylindrical structure lends itself to displaying interesting artwork. Their recent exhibit is a color wheel, with 30 paintings spanning the second floor of the circular museum. The abstract paintings create an immersive effect as you walk around and see colors shift from painting to painting.
3. “Bonnard to Vuillard: The Intimate Poetry of Everyday Life,” opened Oct. 26
Near Dupont Circle, The Phillips Collection is usually less crowded than the museums by the National Mall — and admission is free with a University of Maryland ID. I loved the title of their new exhibit: “Intimate poetry” is a beautiful way to describe seemingly mundane acts of everyday life. Visit The Phillips Collection this month to see abstract artwork detailing living rooms, people, gardens and streets, finding beauty in the ordinary.
4. “The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today,” opened Oct. 26
The work of nearly 50 finalists of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is now open for viewing at the National Portrait Gallery. Artists tell stories of American people through portraiture. The artwork is very diverse, but it all reinforces the importance of the individual in America. There is painting, video, photography, sculpture — each telling a story. Definitely visit the Portrait Gallery if you are looking for a modern and moving interpretation of portraiture.
5. “Elephants and Us: Considering Extinction,” opened Nov. 1
While this isn’t specifically art, the National Museum of American History opened an exhibit about the decline of elephant populations and efforts for conservation. The exhibit discusses America’s role in ivory consumption and includes ivory artifacts and items branded with elephants. Teaching conservation and preservation is especially important in our current climate. If you are a science or history person, or an elephant lover (like me), stop by this exhibit in November.
6. “Heroes: Principles of African Greatness,” opens Nov. 16
The National Museum of African Art will open an exhibit in the middle of November to tell the stories of heroic people and moments in African history. Each piece of artwork is paired with a specific “historic African person … who embodies the thematic value shown in the artwork.” The exhibit will celebrate Africa’s heroes and teach what principles make them great.
7. “Hokusai: Mad about Painting” and “Dewing’s Poetic World,” opens Nov. 23 and 27
The Freer Gallery of Art is one half of the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art. The gallery opens two exhibits near the end of November that look phenomenal. Katsushika Hokusai, who is known for “Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa,” will have his renditions of everyday life in Japan displayed. Work of Thomas Wilmer Dewing, an American painter influenced by Japanese art, will also be on display. Visit the gallery to find an intriguing mix of Asian and American art.
Get out there and see some art!
This story has been updated.