Beyond the Monuments: Washington DC Art Galleries to Check out Right Now

Washington DC is famous for its monuments but visitors are often surprised to find a vibrant art scene in the capital. Shedding it’s buttoned up reputation these Washington DC art galleries are showing off the capital’s creative side. A weekend is the perfect length of time to check out the art scene in Washington DC; I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite museums and galleries that offer a collection of exhibits that range from thought provoking and awe inspiring to fun and whimsical. Here are five Washington DC art galleries to check out right now.

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Renwick Gallery

I’ve walked past the Renwick Gallery countless times without stopping in and that is a mistake I will never make again. Dedictated to modern takes on American craft, the Renwick aims to show how handmade objects affect American culture. Volume, a light installation by Leo Villarreal uses computer code to create lighting sequences that will never repeat. Parallax Gap by Freeland Buck proves it always pay off to look up.  Featuring nine ceilings from iconic American buildings layered atop one another, Parallax Gap offers a different perspective as you move throughout the room.

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The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

At the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden creativity isn’t confined to four walls. Whimsical large scale sculptures provide a thoughtful contrast to the monuments and classical archtecture around the National Mall. Friday evenings throughout the summer the Sculpture Garden features open air jazz concerts while the in winter months the fountain is converted into an outdoor skating rink.

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The Hirshorn Museum

The Smithsonian’s Hishorn Museum is a celebration of modern and contemporary art.Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is one of the most influential and thought provoking artists of our time. Ai Weiwei:Trace at Hirshorn features portraits of political activists from around the world, many who have been detained or exiled for thirst beliefs, against a graphic 360 degree wallpaper depicting items of surveillance and free speech. Trace will be at Washington’s Hirshorn Museum through January 1, 2018. Outside you’ll find The Wish Tree by Yoko Ono. The Wish Tree invites participants to write down their wishes (which on the day I visited ranged from pizza to world peace) that are then collected to be used for a later exhibit in Reykjavik.

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National Building Museum

The National Building Museum is a family friendly museum dedicated to sharing the impact of engineering and architecture on American culture. The great hall features soaring 75 foot high Corinthian columns the plays host to a roster of fascinating exhibits.The Hive (currently running through September 4, 2017)  is a series of interlocking paper tubes creating several domes reaching up to 60 feet high. The result is totally mesmerizing, a bit trippy and just flat out fun.

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Artechouse

Artechouse, Washington DC’s first interactive digital art space, is the future of art with a focus on technology and immersive experiences.  Artechouse’s current installation XYTZ:Abstract Landscapes (running through September 3,2017) is a artistic playground that is better experienced than viewed. Interactive digital exhibits are both futuristic and whimsical. Artechouse is an exciting addition to Washington DC’s art scene.

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Where are your favorite art galleries in Washington DC? Please share in the comments!

Beyond the Monuments: Washington DC Art Galleries to Check out Right Now www.casualtravelist.com

My visit to Washington DC was in collaboration with Visit Washington DC , as always all opinions are my own.

48 Comments on “Beyond the Monuments: Washington DC Art Galleries to Check out Right Now

  1. Seeing cherry blossoms in DC has been in my wishlist for a while. Will have to make time to see these art museums while we are there. Thanks for taking us on a virtual trip there with your beautiful captures.

    • DC i great any time of year but the cherry blossoms are definitely special.

  2. It can be hard to photograph art inside a building. You did a fantastic job. I am fascinated by each of these museums – thank you for sharing this article!

    • Thanks for your kind words, the museums have great natural lighting making photography much easier.

  3. Oh wow, I had no idea DC had so much to offer in the art world. I love Ai Wei Wei’s work and it would be great to see the one you write about here. But what really caught my eye is the sculptures at the National Building Museum. So gorgeous!

  4. Great post and beautiful pictures! I grew up just outside DC and always enjoy having a chance to visit the galleries and Smithsonian.

    • Thank you so much! Hopefully you have a chance to get home soon and check these exhibits out.

  5. Wow some of these exhibitions look really interesting. I’ve heard Washington has dozens of free museums!

    • The free museums are one of the many great things about visiting DC.

  6. Wow, those places are amazing. I love art, and never mind wandering through art exhibits. I’m also a little ashamed that I’ve never been to DC, even though I’m an American citizen. I’m definitely going to have to follow in your footsteps someday.

    • DC is one of my favorite cities, I hope you get there sooner rather than later.

  7. DC had a lot of interesting museums. I feel its one of those really educational cities. I can keep coming back and explore different parts of it.

  8. I went to DC last year and only had time for one museum. I guess I need to visit again to check out the these! They all look so fun and different 😀

  9. Love these museum recommendations that don’t include the Smithsonians! So many of these sound right up my alley but i’m pretty excited about that exhibit at the Artechouse! How much are entry into these museums?

  10. Thank you for the tips. I’m in DC next month. Public art is one of the things I was hoping to find. You save me lots of research. Thanks again, –MaryGo

  11. I’ve loved seeing your Instagram photos of all these places- I think my favourite is the National Building Museum. Such cool photo ops there!

  12. Washington DC has so many sights to see and do. I love Renwick Gallery! I actually stumbled upon it by accident and it was the best accident I made. I was surprised to see all the neat art in there, it’s so unique and creative! I also love that a lot of the museums are free in Washington DC as well.
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    • I can’t believe I walked past the Renwick so many times, it was such a fascinating gallery!

  13. We visited DC a couple of years ago now, and generally I’m not a museum person, though I really loved the DC art gallery scene! Some of the most unique and interesting exhibits and displays I’ve seen anywhere else in the world – my favorite was the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden 🙂

    • The Sculpture Garden has such fun exhibits, especially in view of the more classical monuments.

  14. Thanks for the article! I didn’t know about the Artechouse and I’m excited to go see it. Do you think it’s kid friendly? My kids love to photograph the museums.

  15. I am so much into art and everything in the list is my favorite. The installations, sculptures and art pieces bring out another side of Washington DC that is not known to most tourists. By the way, I love your pictures.

  16. how cool. My family lives in Fairfax, VA and I have never heard of any of these museums. The Amor statue in the sculpture garden is cool since I have only seen the LOVE versions. I think personally I would love to see the Asian art at the Hirshorn Museum. Its a style that isn’t highlighted often here in the states yet I find it very beautiful.
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