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Your Guide To The Smithsonian Art Museum

Stated in Washington DC, the Smithsonian Art Museum, known as SAAM, boasts with over 7,000 artist exhibits. And as of 2013 is visited by more than 2.5 million people.

Quite a large portion of the museum artworks takes place in the original building of the Smithsonian Art Museum. Also known as The Old Patent Office Building.

The first art collection of the museum started in the distant 1829 in the “Castle”. Castle is now the current nickname of the Original Smithsonian Building.

So here you’ll find a comprehensive guide about The Smithsonian American Art Museum origin, history, collection, and artworks.

And if you are a passionate artist or you simply love contemplating artworks and installations, this would be the perfect guide for you.

Before we jump right into and start browsing the incredible art collection of the museum…

We also want to mention that the Smithsonian American Art Museum works every day from 10 am to 5:30 pm. Only Christmas is a day of rest. It’s located only a few steps away from the at Pennsylvania Ave. And 17th St. NW.


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The Smithsonian Art Museum picked many names throughout the years. Some of which are Smithsonian Art Collection, National Gallery of Art. The current name of the museum was revealed in October 2000.

The first building of the art museum was named “Castle.” It was built in 1829. However, with the growth of the collection and artworks, a new and larger building had to be constructed. That’s because the current one wasn’t able to handle the vast collection of artworks.

In 1968 the Smithsonian Art Museum reopened again. That was the time when the Smithsonian renovated the Old Patent Office Building so fine art could be displayed properly.

After the last renovation of the current building of the art museum in 2006 was completed, a significant amount of windows were placed. Also, footsteps were repaired, columns were renovated to make the Smithsonian American Art Museum an incredible place to display beautiful art collections and installations.

Art Work And Collection

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The museum boasts with a broad array of artwork, contemporary crafts, over 7,000 artists represented, and art in general that covers all regions and periods in the history of America. The SAAM also contains the world’s most extensive collection of New Deal art.

The museum contains American art galleries and public spaces. Some of these are the Renwick Gallery, The Luce Foundation Center of American Art and the Lunder Conservation Center. All those galleries boast with a vast array of fine arts and exhibits you’ll definitely want to examine if you are keen on famous artworks.

The Renwick Gallery

Gallery Art
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This gallery is devoted to showing people contemporary craft and decorative art. This exhibition center is located near the White House. One of its primary attractions you can check right now is “No Spectators: The Art Of Burning Man.”

You’ll be to explore beautiful artworks and installations in a close-up view. What’s unique is that this particular exhibit takes over the whole museum and even spreads to the streets near the Renwick Gallery.

The gallery contains large room-sized installations which definitely leave you highly impressed. There are also fascinating shows. Most of which also include costumes and jewelry straight from the Burning Man’s desert, or the so-called “Playa”. What’s more, is that there is a VR available so customers can experience the show digitally.

As we mentioned above, the “No Spectators: The Art Of The Burning Man” takes part in the streets of the city. This way it fascinates and amuses the passing pedestrians.

Other exhibits and attractions you can also explore and check out in the Smithsonian American Art Museum feature…

Portrait Of Mnonja

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This illustration is part of the Smithsonian Art Museum’s beautiful art collection. It is made by Mickalene Thomas in 2010, who is an African American artist.

Mickalene mainly explores the beauty, sexuality, and the black female identity in her innovations. The Portrait Of Mnonja is a fascinating and remarkable piece of art. It showcases the professionalism of Thomas’s artwork. The leaning back figure is presented in a cheeky contrapposto; arranged against a wood-framed foundation fragrant of a seventies-time family room. The woman on the portrait wears a loose white blouse with a beautiful necklace around the neck. Also, her hair is pulled slightly on the back in a low bun. The featured black independent woman exudes dignity and self-assurance.

This portrait is definitely an inspiration for any woman, showcasing the power, dignity, and confidence a woman can have to thrive. It’s a remarkable painting, and new artists should definitely look up to this beautiful artwork to gain inspiration.


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It’s worth mentioning that the Smithsonian Art Museum contains one of the best sculpture collections in the world. In the image above, you see Puck. Puck sculpted by Harriet Hosmer in 1956. The history of this sculpture is quite impressive. In fact, Harriet made Puck out of financial necessity. That’s because her father wasn’t able to support her anymore when she was in Rome.

Hosmer also had quite a talent. Back in the days (19th century), themes were popular. That’s why Hosmer chose to make a sculpture based on the adorable fairy from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hosmer’s Puck, or also “my son,” that’s how she called him, was an instant success in the aristocracy. Also, many noble people spotted her talent, including the Prince of Whales, Albert Edward and the Crown Princess of Germany. This then gave Hosmer incredible confidence and success in her art career.

Puck is definitely state-of-the-art, and every sculpture artist should take inspiration from it.

Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

Electronic Superhighway
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When Nam June Paik first arrived in America in 1964, he was simply fascinated by the superhighways. People could literally travel the whole country, simply, in their cars. This gave birth to an incredible idea assembled in the mind of Paik. He was the first to come up with the term, “electronic superhighway” and was hailed as the father of video art. He also built the Electronic Superhighway in 1970 from 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3,750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicolored neon tubing.

Paik’s invention displays the superhighways of America in a quite an attractive and compelling way. You’ll be able to explore the vast installation of Nam. You’ll also be surprised to know that Paik highlights the monitors, recalling the colored guide navigation maps, glowing advertisements of different motels and restaurants straight on the road. Additionally, the different colors of the states remind us that each and every state is unique by itself; a distinct identity and culture.

The Electronic Superhighway is an absolute masterpiece, standing out from other artworks. If you are kind of an off-beat and unusual artist, this also an awesome state-of-the-artwork where you can take inspiration from.

Jackpot Machine

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This Jackpot Machine painting was made by Wayne Thiebaud in 1962 right after he broke into the national scene after a few years of surviving by doing cartooning. He spent most of his meaningful life on the west coast. The Jackpot Machine invites the viewer to pull the handle and get rich quick. Like all seekers who come to the West, looking for a quick prize.

However, in the illustration, only 2 out of 3 tokens align. By painting that, Thiebaud expresses his understanding of how random success occurs. The painting is quite seductive, as it is aggressive. A strong belief that resides in Wayne is that “paint is more important than art’. That’s also why he uses luscious paint to highlight the jacked-up colors of the commercial culture in California.

The Jackpot Machine is quite a unique painting, gathering seductiveness and aggressiveness in one. It’s an absolute masterpiece of modern art.

Nuestra Senora de Belen

Nuestra senora de Belen
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The above image was created by the astonishing artist Jose Campeche in the 18th century. It highlights the Virgin nursing young Jesus. This painting identifies Mary with the Church. As Mary feeds the young Jesus, so the Church nurtures its children in the same manner.

Paintings and images of Virgin, nurturing and feeding were quite famous in the Middle Ages. This was especially in countries such as Spain, in Catalonia and Valencia. At the time, when Campeche was an active artist, he was staying in Puerto Rico. That’s the time when Catalonians were bringing a vast array of artistic influences to the island from their mother country. Frankly, Puerto Rico at that time became a state-of-the-art country with some noble artists living there. Nuestra Senora de Belen is a true masterpiece by Jose Campeche. It also helps people get a deeper and more compelling understanding of life.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is simply one of a kind building. It features modern artworks, sculptures, crafts, and some spectacular shows that you should definitely visit if you are near Washington DC.  Additionally, you will also be able to explore and contemplate fascinating paintings and sculptured figures. This leaves within you a long-lasting impression about the beauty of art that the Smithsonian Art Museum offers.

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