An exhibit opening on April 24 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, called "Watch This! Revelations in Media Art," is the kind of thing that can convert art haters into fans. Visit this show, and you can play a Halo-inspired video game on a vintage Atari VCS console from 1977. You can discover something called "Cloud Music"--an original score composed on-the-spot by a video analyzer and audio synthesizer, entirely based on the movement of clouds. There's interactive art, a TV clock, and a trippy installation where you stand in front of a graffiti painting and watch it become three-dimensional on a screen.
Every year, the DC Preservation League announces a list of the most endangered places in Washington--buildings that have some sort of cultural significance but are at risk of demolition due to abandonment or neglect. These places have now been immortalized in an exhibit by the Historical Society of Washington, DC. "For the Record: Artfully Historic DC" opens Wednesday, featuring 75 paintings and photographs depicting the city's most endangered places. Here's a selection of works from the exhibit.
About 550 structures were built between 1854 and 1930 in the Anacostia Historic District, including the dentist's office pictured above. Many buildings from this time period show signs of abandonment--which the Historical Society attributes to "general civic disinvestment in the working-class African-American communities" in the area. As developers push east of the Anacostia River, these buildings are at increased risk of being torn down--or competing with new structures inconsistent with the Italianate detailing that has come to identify Anacostia.
This building is one of Shaw's oldest mid-19th-century buildings. Constructed in 1892 by Washington architect Appleton P. Clark, this Romanesque-style row house was nearly demolished in 2014, when developers sought to build two hotels in its place. The DC Preservation League stepped in and saved the structure.
DC's main public library was designed by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and is the only building in Washington designed by one of the master Modernist architects--a recognition shared by the likes of Mies, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Though the DC government has announced its intention of modernizing the building, the Historical Society says a lack of maintenance continues to threaten the structure's integrity.
Though it's a great example of Shingle style architecture, the Washington Canoe Club shows clear signs of deterioration. Its windows and window frames need repair; the roof must be replaced; and its floors and walls are damaged. The problem? It's unclear who owns the building, according to the Historical Society. Neither the Washington Canoe Club or the National Park Service have invested in restoration. And in 2010, the Park Service declared the building unsafe for occupancy. It has since launched plans for rehabilitation, but doesn't have enough cash to actually do the work.
From the outside, the nearly 150-year-old Benjamin Franklin School at 13th and K Street, Northwest, looks like it's in great condition. But that's only because the DC government restored its exterior in the early 2000s. The inside, however, has been neglected. The building that once won design awards across Europe--and was hailed across the world as an ideal model for modern school buildings--now has a crumbling interior.
This digital image montage, called "Folklife in Deanwood," depicts the Strand Theater at 5131 Grant Road, Northeast, which once housed stores, a pool room, and a dance hall. It was the first movie theater built in the neighborhood, but the empty building has been deteriorating for decades. Rumors float about commercial redevelopment.
Founded in 1838, the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church was incredibly important in the abolitionist movement, advocating for race equality and the end of slavery. The church, known as as the "National Cathedral of African Methodism," was built with donations from church members. Though it was the site of important historical events, including Frederick Douglass's funeral, today the church lacks funds to make much-needed repairs.
"For the Record: Artfully Historic" DC runs from April 22 to May 27 at the Historical Society of Washington, DC. Open Tuesday through Friday, 10 AM to 4 PM. Admission is free.
In a single visit to the National Museum of African Art, you can walk through heaven, purgatory, and hell. That's because on Wednesday the museum launches its latest exhibit, "The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists," a collection of works from 40 contemporary artists from 18 African countries. The exhibit is meant to create a dialogue about life, death, and the mysticism surrounding both. "The one thing that makes us all human is we all wonder what will happen after," says curator Simon Njami.
It's the first exhibit to occupy the four levels of the museum; the building's multi-story structure serves as the perfect venue for such a dynamic show. You begin in heaven--a bright, airy space painted white, where artists explore the meaning of paradise. Then you descend to a lower floor: purgatory, an area splotched with red, symbolizing a crossroads. The most riveting part of the exhibition comes next: hell, a cold, dark room where you can hear eery screams from a video installation, as well as tiptoe around a 1,500-foot beached whale made of rubber, hose pipe, and ribbon. It's a fascinating layout, one that's as immersive as a haunted house. To really appreciate it, you have to make the trek down to the National Mall. Here's a sneak peek, though, featuring a selection of five stunning works.
These life-size embossed engravings by South African artist Christine Dixie are very much in tune with what you can expect to see in the exhibit's heaven portion. The six engravings--titled "To Sleep," "Bind," "Burning," "Offering," "Blind," and "To Dream"--have a light aesthetic but also represent something greater. Dixie's work focuses on the power of images in constructing perceptions of gender.
This 42-foot canvas by Senegalese artist Pélagie Gbaguidi, only a portion of which is shown above, practically occupies an entire wall of the heaven exhibit. Its mammoth size is remarkable enough in its own right; its overlapping images make it the kind of painting you could look at for hours.
Aida Muluneh has seven photographs in purgatory. The c-prints depict a four-month pregnant woman covered in body paint, as well as a black-and-white cloth from southern Ethiopia. Her work explores the hardship of growing up as an immigrant, as well as the masks people wear to hide their true identity. Muluneh's photos have become the leading images of the exhibition, and it's not hard to see why.
Made with wood collected from the streets of Cairo, this dome by Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr is just one of the many installations in hell that play on darkness and light. Across from Nasr's piece, there's an installation by Joël Andrianomearisoa, made with hundreds of pocket mirrors. Lights shine on those small mirrors and bounce off Nasr's dome, creating a starry effect on the space's black walls.
Wangechi Mutu's collage, titled "The Storm Has Finally Made It Out of Me Alhamdulillah," depicts a mystical creature with a nefarious-looking explosion emanating from her midsection. (Alhamdulillah means "Thanks to be God" in Arabic.) The Kenyan artist's work is one of the few collages in the exhibition and is situated in hell.
"The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artist" opens on April 8 at the National Museum of African Art and runs through August 2.
Here's the hard truth: Getting rich off art isn't easy. Chances are that pretty landscape you bought at the flea market isn't actually a Renoir. And that painting you bought at an art gallery for $100? You'll probably never sell it for a thousand bucks. "A very small percentage of works increase in value in the short or even long term," says Peggy Sparks, director of Artist's Proof in Georgetown. "Purchasing art for investment should not be your only motivation."
According to Sparks, budding art collectors should be motivated by the actual art--not the cash it may bring them in the future. Still, she says, it's important to spend wisely. Here are her five tips for starting an art collection.
1. Do your homework
That means looking up past sales prices for the artist you're interested in. You might not have much luck if previous sales came from galleries, where money talks typically occur behind closed doors. If the artist's work has sold at auction, however, you can take a look at public sale results. "There are so many resources available at our fingertips," Sparks says. "Online resources such as Artprice allow you to compare previous auction prices." Log on to those websites and search for a piece by the same artist--just make sure it was made around the same time and produced with similar materials as the piece you're interested in. Compare those auction results to the price you're considering, and go from there.
2. Ask the right people the right questions
Let's say those auction results show amounts around $1,000, but an art dealer is asking $2,000 for a similar work. That means it's time to ask some serious questions. Sparks explains: "Art advisors and consultants can tell you if a work is worth the money you're paying for it. Check with gallery directors that have represented artists you want to collect to see how the prices have moved over the last few years and how they have been received." Also, don't be afraid to negotiate. Art dealers are usually willing to work with you; some may even let you pay in interest-free installments.
3. See the work in person
Buying art online is risky. Forgers have been known to sell through eBay, and without seeing a painting in person, it's difficult to appreciate its quality. Plus, it's always better to buy from a reputable gallery. If an artist is represented by a big name, like Pace or Marlborough, then that alone can lend credibility to the market. Sparks says: "Galleries are invested in the artists they represent and thus do a lot to promote their value. The prices of artists sometimes double when credible galleries show their works."
4. Value--like beauty--is fleeting
If Madonna just dropped thousands of dollars on the work of an emerging artist, it's likely that artist will immediately bump up sales prices. But that doesn't necessarily mean those high prices will stick around. Sparks explains: "When a celebrity purchases a work by an artist, it catapults the artist to fame overnight. When a famous art critic writes about an artist, it pushes the prices of the art up immediately. However, whether or not the value can be maintained in the long run is questionable. Don't make a purchase because someone else has bought it. Buy it because you see a value in it for you."
5. Fall in love cautiously
Impulse buys probably aren't the best approach to art. Sparks recommends taking your time. Visit the gallery at least twice and think about how that painting will look in your space. (Some galleries will even arrange a private showing at your home--all you have to do ask.) Because it's unlikely your purchase will skyrocket in value in the next few years, it's important to buy art because you geniunely like it. "If you make a purchase purely for the sake of investment, there is a high chance that you will be disappointed," Sparks says. "If you buy works that you love, a drop in the market value will not send you over the cliff."
To Julia Vogl, Tysons Corner is a future city. It's still too young to have a clear identity. So the 29-year-old artist recently embarked on a mission to help the Northern Virginia town out. Together with the Arts Council of Fairfax County, Vogl plans to unleash a project dubbed Tysons Tiles—the city's first-ever public art engagement work. With the project, she wants to answer two questions. "Who is the community at Tysons?" she asks. "And what type of culture do they want?"
These questions are just the beginning of what may lay ahead for Tysons. By 2050, Fairfax County hopes to transform this office-building-clogged city into a sustainable, walkable urban center. And Vogl says one of the best ways to accomplish that is with public art. "It's about starting a conversation about what art and culture can be," she says.
Vogl will start the conversation between May 18 and May 24. That's when the artist herself will pop up with a trolley in about 20 different locations across Tysons—everywhere from the shopping mall food court to restaurants like the Silver Diner—to survey 1,000 people, asking them questions about their role in the community, their relationship to culture, and a fun fact about their personal lives.
Here's how it works: Each participant answers a few multiple-choice questions on an iPad. Then they get a badge with colors representing their answers. Later, Vogl will use those colors to construct 5,000-square-foot ground murals at the Greensboro and McLean Metro stations. The installation will be displayed from June 25 until August 3, when participants can locate the tiles corresponding to their own badge. Vogl hopes these badges will come to represent communal values.
"So much of the culture [in Tysons] is in cars," Vogl says. "I'm hoping that these badges become an anecdote but also a symbol for people who are in that neighborhood and creates more connections for pedestrians."
A DC native, Vogl is no stranger to the task ahead. Her work has taken her from New York to Poland and England, where she now lives. In 2011, she surveyed 1,000 Londoners and asked how they'd spend £1,000,000 of public funds. The results were organized in different colors—royal blue for education, hot pink for arts and culture, and red for transportation, for example—and converted it into a massive bar chart at the University College of London.
The same lessons she learned there can be applied here. One of Vogl's questions at Tysons will relate to public art; the answers will help Fairfax County understand the public's perception of these projects. Tysons Tiles cost $130,000 and was funded by both public and private money, including a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Is this an effective way to build community? Should the county spend its cash on public art?
"Tysons is undergoing a lot of development and really emerging as a city," says Linda Sullivan, president of the Arts Council of Fairfax County. "The idea is that through this project, we're talking with the community about their wishes and visions for the arts."
Opening December 5 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts is “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea,” comprising more than 60 works from churches, galleries, and private collections in the US and Europe that examine the ways the Virgin Mary is depicted in art. Through April 12.
“Zen, Tea, and Chinese Art in Medieval Japan,” at the Freer Gallery beginning December 13, showcases aspects of Japanese art and culture—including tea ceremonies and ink paintings—as well as their roots in Chinese traditions through artifacts from both countries. Through June 14.
Also opening December 13 at the Freer is “Oribe Ware: Color and Pattern Come to Japanese Ceramics,” which looks at the Oribe style, characterized by vivid color and pattern, that was invented in Japan in 1605. The works include two from the museum’s permanent collection on view for the first time. Through June 14.
The Yuan Dynasty was a time of high international demand for Chinese wares. In “Chinese Ceramics: 13th-14th Century,” the Freer displays 12 pieces illustrating the period’s various styles. December 20 through January 3, 2016.
Through December 24 at Plan B, see the works of 30-plus artists on display in the gallery’s year-end group show.
Washington Printmakers Gallery presents “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” a collection of woodcuts and Solarplate etchings by Corcoran graduate Joan Krash, shown both separately and combined into collages. December 3 through 28.
In Touchstone’s Gallery C is “Plane Watchers,” a series of photos by Annika Haas capturing life in an Estonian shantytown after the collapse of the Soviet empire. December 5 through 28.
Opening December 11 at Target Gallery is “5x5(x5),” in which 35 artists challenged themselves to create a work in any medium that is no larger than five inches in any direction.
At Foundry Gallery beginning December 13 is the appropriately named “Come In From the Cold,” comprising winter-themed works from 17 artists including Barbara Stepura, Michiyo Mizuuchi, and Ronald Gregory. Through December 28.
Continuing its annual tradition of solo shows by local emerging artists, Transformer presents the works of painter Jameson Magrogan, a Maryland Institute College of Art graduate. December 13 through January 31.
This month’s Phillips After 5 happens December 4 and is themed around the museum’s “Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Realities” exhibit. Make a reservation ($12) online.
December 6, check out a Holidays Through History open house at Tudor Place, Anderson House, Dumbarton House, and Woodrow Wilson House. Learn about American Christmas traditions through the ages, decorate your own holiday cards, and more. $16 online or $20 at the door.
December 6 and 7, Loudoun Arts Center has its grand opening. Check out free workshops and classes, see works and performances by students, and enjoy light refreshments.
December 12 through 14 at Dulles Expo Center is the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival, featuring jewelry, painting, furniture, and more by 300-plus artisans.
Take the kids to Arlington Arts Center December 13 for the Gift Mania holiday workshop, where they can learn to make creative presents by hand.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington hosts a holiday boutique and craft show on December 23 for all your last-minute gifting needs.
To mark four centuries since the death of Spanish Renaissance artist El Greco, the National Gallery of Art has augmented its collection of his works—the largest in the US—with contributions from private collectors for a retrospective. November 2 through February 16.
One of four surviving copies of the 800-year-old Magna Carta, on loan from England’s Lincoln Cathedral, comes to the Library of Congress November 6, 75 years after its first visit to DC, on the eve of World War II. “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” also features historical photographs and documents that explore the charter as the basis for the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through January 19.
From November 6 to 20, the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center offers the first and only chance to see the Ranger spacecraft from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. The display also includes virtual-reality simulations of what it would be like to be on board.
Comprising 70 works from a private area collector, “The Architectural Image, 1920-1950” focuses on a time when American building styles were rapidly shifting from neoclassicism to modernism thanks to European influences. November 8 through May 3 at the National Building Museum.
Actor/Ben’s Chili Bowl enthusiast Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, have loaned 300-some rarely seen works by African-American artists to the National Museum of African Art for “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue,” which integrates the Cosbys’ pieces with thematically related selections from the museum's permanent archives. November 9 through 2016.
Housed in the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center, “Doris Lee: American Painter and Illustrator” includes sketches, photographs, and other ephemera related to the artist, known for her Logan Purchase Prize-winning 1935 painting, “Thanksgiving.” November 17 through May 8.
Opening November 22 at the Sackler Gallery, “The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia” focuses on depictions of Asia from a visitor’s point of view through photographs, souvenirs, drawings, maps, and other art and artifacts. Through May 31.
The Freer Gallery’s “Style in Chinese Landscape Painting: The Yuan Legacy” explores six styles of landscape painting developed during the Yuan dynasty in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. November 22 through May 31.
While the main dinosaur hall remains closed for renovation until 2019, the National Museum of Natural History offers a look at the massive lizards that roamed North America 66 million years ago in “The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World.” November 25 through 2015.
Throughout November, Transformer’s storefront displays video works by eight Swedish artists on a 24-hour loop.
November 6 through December 1, Art League presents photographer Michelle Rogers’s “Le Temps Retrouvé/Revisiting the Past,” which showcases eerie works the artist created by combining her own photos with the images on vintage postcards.
Touchstone’s Gallery B showscases “Best of Both Styles,” an exhibit of works by 3D-collage artist David Alfuth. November 7 through 30.
In “Volume” at Honfleur Gallery, see the works of local artist Sheila Crider, which attempt to question the purpose and limitations of decorative and fine art. November 7 through December 19.
Beginning November 21 at Flashpoint is “Martine Workman: Dusk Woods,” in which the artist’s mixed-media sculptures, drawings, and other works transform the gallery into a fantastical forest. Through December 20.
At Strathmore November 22 through January 4 is the annual Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature, along with “Pastel Plus: A Mixed Media Approach by the Maryland Pastel Society.”
This month’s Phillips After 5, on November 6, is inspired by the flow of ideas between Paris and Brussels during the Neo-Impressionist period. Reservations ($12) can be made online, and the event includes snacks from chef Spike Mendelsohn.
FotoWeek DC officially runs November 8 through 16, but the week offers a couple of pre-parties: Thursday brings a look at how DC fashion has changed over the years through photographs from the DC Public Library archives; and Friday is a kickoff bash with an open bar, photo booths, and more. See the website for the full schedule of events.
On November 8, 1776 hosts ArtCrank, an exhibit and sale of bicycle-themed posters created by DC artists. Beer from Oskar Blues will be available, and donations benefit the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
At Torpedo Factory November 13, Jane Franklin Dance performs a site-specific piece designed to travel through the galleries and communicate with the artworks found in each space.
In conjunction with the Natural History Museum’s “Last American Dinosaurs” exhibit (see Museum Exhibits, above), Smithsonian Associates presents a lecture examining the “chicken from hell” and other fossilized creatures discovered in North America. November 18 at the National Museum of African Art.
The annual Sugarloaf Crafts Festival takes place in Gaithersburg November 21 through 23, showcasing the works of more than 400 artisans.
On November 28, Lorton, Virginia’s Workhouse Arts Center hosts a Black Friday celebration featuring art sales, live music, projects for children, and more.
Most people’s daily interactions with birds are probably limited to shooing pigeons away from a freshly waxed car or wolfing down a chicken Caesar salad at lunch. But birds of all feathers have been inspiring artists for centuries, a fact the American Art Museum explores in its new exhibit “The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art.” The show, opening Friday, uses a variety of media—paintings, collages, large-scale sculpture installations—to explore how artists choose to depict birds, as well as their relationship to the world and humans’ relationship to them. The exhibit, according to curator Joanna Marsh, takes its name from a line in the poem “The Bird at Dawn” by Harold Monro, the contrast speaking to birds’ dual natures: exotic and commonplace, abundant and endangered.
Some of the most striking works include peacock sculptures by San Francisco artist Laurel Roth Hope. The intricate forms on close examination reveal themselves to be made from drugstore beauty items—glittering wings fashioned from metal hair clips, painted fake fingernails mimicking the birds’ iridescent hues, gold necklaces forming the sweeping tails—drawing a cheeky parallel between the tools women use to beautify themselves and the showy features that allow male peacocks to attract a mate. There are also two large installations by Oklahoma sculptor Petah Coyne constructed of funereally dark silk flowers and cascading black velvet and studded with contorted taxidermied birds, which Marsh says are inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Though many of the works are fantastical, like Fred Tomaselli’s otherworldly yet playful avian collages, the exhibit also hints at sobering truths about mankind’s destructive relationship to the natural world and the winged creatures who inhabit it. That theme is most evident in a poignant sketch by David Beck of a dodo, the “disastrously trusting” 17th-century bird that died out just 80 years after humans discovered it and has since become a poster animal for extinction. Another bygone species, the passenger pigeon, also features; the last-known of its kind, a specimen named Martha, is on display in the Museum of Natural History, and the 100th anniversary of her death this year was part of the inspiration for the exhibit. The birds appear in the opening work, a wall mural by James Prosek commissioned for the exhibit and called “What once was is no more: Passing like a thought, flight into memory”; and in Rachel Berwick’s haunting “Zugunruhe,” a tree encased in a hexagonal mirrored box, its branches laden with dozens of amber resin birds—created, Marsh explained, from casts of real taxidermied passenger pigeons. (Zugunruhe is a German word describing the restlessness and anxiety birds exhibit before migrating.)
The Smithsonian has a long history with avian-inspired art, owing in part to the proclivities of two of its past secretaries: Spencer Fullerton Baird and S. Dillon Ripley were both ornithologists by profession. “The Singing and the Silence” draws on both that institutional legacy and modern iterations of the artistic tradition to present birds in a way they’re not often seen—and encourage viewers to think of them as more than just a fact of life.
The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum October 31 through February 22. For more information, visit the gallery’s website. See images from the exhibit below.
On Wednesday morning, before the rain and tornado warnings descended on DC, the Hirshhorn hosted a preview to show off its new look to donors and members of the media. The museum, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, has for the first time redone its third-floor galleries, and introduced visitors to the changes—as well as to new director Melissa Chiu, just three weeks into the job. (She formerly served as the director of New York’s Asia Society Museum.)
The major changes to the third floor include removing the carpeting, along with some drop ceilings and spur walls, to return to the openness originally intended by architect Gordon Bunshaft—and to allow for installation of more contemporary sculptures, many of which are designed to rest directly on the floor. The impact can be seen in one of the Hirshhorn’s new exhibits, “At the Hub of Things,” which comprises 50 rarely displayed works from the museum’s collection of modern and contemporary art. The show adopts a “choose-your-own-adventure” structure, grouping the works by theme rather than by artist or time period, as co-curator Melissa Ho explained. The works include Ernesto Neto’s “The Dangerous Logic of Wooing,” a massive installation involving bulbous swoops of rice-filled fabric suspended from the ceiling; Yoko Ono’s “Sky TV for Washington,” which relays a continuous video of the sky over the Mall via closed-circuit camera as a contrast between the natural world and technology; and the piece that gives the exhibit its name, Anish Kapoor’s blue resin sculpture inspired by Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and change.
The other exhibit is well worth a visit by stressed-out Washingtonians. “Days of Endless Time” is a collection of 14 moving-image works by 13 artists, all created in the past decade and sharing a single theme: the suspension of time and the importance of solitude and contemplation. Israeli artist Sigalit Landau’s “DeadSee” features her floating naked in emerald water amid a spiral of watermelons, juxtaposing the womblike calm of the sea against the violent red of the broken fruit. Clemens von Wedemeyer attended the preview to explain his “Afterimage,” an eerie and slightly vertigo-inducing 3D walk-through of an old sculpture and prop warehouse. Especially intriguing is Robert Wilson’s portrait of Lady Gaga, almost unrecognizable in period dress and subdued hair and makeup. What at first seems like a static image over time gives way to movement, subtle at first and then more noticeable, rewarding the patient viewer with a new dimension of the work.
“At the Hub of Things” is an ongoing exhibit; “Days of Endless Time” closes April 12. See images from both collections below.
Chances are when you’re walking around DC on a workday you’re not paying much attention to the ground you’re walking on (beyond trying to avoid putting your shoes in anything nasty). But this Thursday, the Golden Triangle BID wants you to stop and look around—specifically at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, where the sidewalk will be transformed into a chalk mural by local artist Whitney Waller.
Waller, a graduate of the Corcoran School of Art & Design (RIP), will be at work between 9 and 5, creating her temporary masterpiece as passersby watch.