Tour of DC art museums: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
By Mythili Devarakonda
November 9, 2021
Image Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Herman
With more than 70 museums and galleries in Washington D.C.,with 20 of them being art and culture museums, it can be a struggle to decide where to spend the weekend. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is one we’re going to explore. “I didn't realize how much I missed being in museums,” said Charissa Zhu, a senior psychology and family science double major at the University of Maryland. It was Zhu’s first time in a museum since the COVID-19 outbreak. The Hirshhorn Museum reopened late August for the public after suffering pandemic-related closures from March, 2020. However, silverlinings for new opportunities arose amid the pandemic.
While the building was closed for 17 months during the pandemic, events such as weekly talks with artists Guerrilla Girls and Deborah Roberts, the first online screening of Arthur Jafa’s Love Is The Message, a virtual activation of Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC, and more took place virtually.
“The Hirshhorn’s transformation into a virtual museum increased access to art and artists of our time to global audiences,” said Madeline Feller, Hirshhorn public relations and marketing manager. “To continue this expanded reach and meaningful engagement, the Hirshhorn will continue to operate as a hybrid museum.”
Deemed as “a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture” on the Hirshhorn website, the national museum of modern and contemporary art currently hosts one of the largest art exhibitions in the U.S. – the “Laurie Anderson: The Weather” multimedia exhibit showcasing large-scale artworks of Laurie Anderson, a pioneer artist and performer.
“I thought it was really cool to just see her projects and the way that she tells the stories,” Zhu said.
UMD senior elementary education major Rachel Herman has always been an art person.
“There was a really cool interactive exhibit where you were in a room, and you just felt like you were almost a part of the exhibit,” said Herman.
Herman was referring to one of the dozen works of Laurie Anderson on display called The Chalkroom. The Chalkroom is a virtual reality work by Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang where there’s graffiti of words, drawings and stories covering every inch of the floor, walls and the ceiling. Their goal was to make “words sail through the air as emails,” according to Laurie Anderson’s online portfolio.
The New York Times described it as “a gallery covered in raw, white-on-black graffiti that expands into a haunting multi-chambered journey if you use its virtual reality component; [Laurie Anderson’s] indelible voice on audio serves as the guide.” “As a platform for artists to respond to history in real time... the Hirshhorn worked closely with artists like Laurie Anderson as they created new artworks during the pandemic,” Feller said.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Herman
When asked about the importance of art in daily life, Zhu said art made her see other people’s perspectives on life. “Art crosses cultural and language barriers and anyone can go to any art museum and look at a piece of art… they don't have to speak the same language; they don't have to be from the same place, but they can see and appreciate the art together,” Herman said. “[Art] provokes interesting and thoughtful conversation and it can help soothe people and heal people that need it.”
Adding to the same page,“Art isn’t just for artists and art history majors. It’s for everyone,” Feller said.“Modern and contemporary art in particular help us think about topics that are personal to us –– from gentrification to punk music to motherhood to computer science –– and connect with others on them.”
What’s coming up in the Hirshhorn, you ask? Opening Nov.19, Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory is a sci-fi and graphic novels inspired exhibit about power dynamics -- you won’t want to miss it!
Located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., the Hirshhorn Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday.
The outdoor Sculpture Garden closes at 4:30 p.m.
Take the Metro to either the L’Enfant Plaza or the Smithsonian stop this weekend and experience high-quality art for free.