Art Exhibitions, Gallery Openings, and Events in October

See Ai Weiwei and Roy Lichtenstein retrospectives, explore Jules Olitski, and pit vampires against zombies in Washington this month.

By: Sophie Gilbert


Open through December 21 in the National Gallery of Art’s West Building is “The Serial Portrait: Photography and Identity in the Last One Hundred Years,” images by 20 artists that look at the evolution of portrait photography in the 20th century. Included are such masters as Alfred Stieglitz, Harry Callahan, and Paul Strand. Through December 31.

Two Detroit-focused photography exhibits are running concurrently at the National Building Museum. “Detroit Is No Dry Bones” encompasses images Camilo José Vergara took over the past 25 years, capturing the city’s loss of 60 percent of its population. “Detroit Disassembled” features pictures of physical dilapidation taken by Andrew Moore. See our review of the show. Through February 18.

At the National Museum of the American Indian, “Arctic Journeys/Ancient Memories: The Sculpture of Abraham Anghik Ruben” explores the Inuit artist’s sculptures, inspired by spiritual tales of adventurers and travelers. The British Columbia sculptor carves his ornate, primitive-inspired works out of soapstone. October 4 through January 2.

October 6 through Janaury 6, the Phillips Collection presents the first major US exhibit of works by Per Kirkeby, whose brightly colored canvases and sculptures have made him one of Denmark’s greatest artists. London’s Tate Modern and Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art have done retrospectives of his work. The former geologist draws inspiration from the natural world. To see more on Kirkeby, read our preview.

In what might be one of the biggest shows of the fall, “Ai Weiwei: According to What?,” the Hirshhorn gives the Chinese dissident artist and activist his first American retrospective. The show includes hundreds of photographs as well as the artist’s playful, large-scale installations. October 7 through February 24.

Portraiture meets verse in “Poetic Likeness: Modern American Poets” at the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibit examines poetry’s history and significance in America via quotations, audiovisual clips, and portraits of Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, and others. October 12 through April 28.

The National Gallery of Art’s East Building hosts the first major exhibit of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s work since his death 15 years ago. “Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective” comprises more than 100 paintings, including his comic-strip-inspired works, alongside drawings and sculptures. October 14 through January 13.


Continuing at Flashpoint through November 3 is Mariah Anne Johnson: In the Pines—a showcase for Johnson’s brightly colored, repurposed works.

Through November 28, the Women’s National Democratic Club displays early prints and drawings by WPA-commissioned artist Benjamin Abramowitz, who died last year.

Through December 14, the Luther W. Brady Gallery at GWU presents “Jules Olitski on an Intimate Scale,” exploring the American abstract painter’s smaller works.

Rulemaker: Becca Kallem and Matthew Smith is at Arlington Arts Center from October 3 through December 23. The show features Kallem’s ordered, kaleidoscopic paintings with Smith’s fusions of painting and quilting techniques.

October 4 through November 5, the Art League displays “Tierra y Memoria,” a show of paintings and linocuts by Honduras artist Juan Hernandez.

At the Fridge October 6 through 28 is “Quiet Walks in Dangerous Places,” an exhibition of work by the graffiti artist ULTRA.

October 10 through January 12, Zenith Gallery hosts The Poetic Dimensions of Symbols and Shapes,” an exhibition of sculpture and mixed-media works by Pattie Porter Firestone and Andrea Barnes.

Opening at the Folger Library October 16 is “Very Like a Whale,” an exhibition of photographs by Rosamund Purcell inspired by scientific knowledge in the 16th and 17th centuries.

“Mobile Works,” opening at Workhouse Arts Center October 26, displays images taken by cell phones using traditional photographic techniques.


Phillips After 5 returns October 4 with Vampires vs. Zombies,” a collaborative event with the Washington Ballet.

The (e)merge art fair returns for its second year this weekend, and it’s probably going to be huge. The opening night party October 4 features Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation and a poolside party at—where else?— Capitol Skyline.

Artisphere celebrates its second anniversary this weekend with a public sound installation, deejay performances, theatrical workshops, and more.

The DC Fine Arts Photography Fair comes to Columbia Heights October 5 through 7.

The 13th annual DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival is at the Sackler October 4 through 14.

On October 9 and 10, French artist JR will install a mural at 14th and T streets.

October 10 at the American Art Museum, the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik discusses What Makes American Art American?

Pyramid Atlantic Art Center is having a DIY yard sale and crafting event October 13.

The second annual Maryland Festival of the Arts comes to Silver Spring October 13 and 14.

The Kids Euro Festival returns October 17 through November 14.

October 18, the Smithsonian Associates host A Star Party: Cocktails Under African Skies at the National Museum of African Art.

The Bethesda Row Arts Festival is October 20 and 21.

October 29 through November 4, the Torpedo Factory celebrates Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, with a costume and dance party.