The Hirshhorn at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian: some of the best things in life are free.

Today, we began our Smithsonian campaign, a daunting undertaking, inviting education, sensory overload, and museum legs. The Hirschhorn Museum was nearest our Metro stop so we began there. Andy Warhol’s ‘Shadows’ was featured.

Warhol Shadows (photo from the Hirshhorn website)

It’s a row of 102 silk-screen panels he’d done for a disco in 1978, which haven’t since found a large enough wall to contain them all. The image, silk-screened black over varying colors, repeats over and over; sometimes negative sometimes positive, like a chant of light and shadow that worked really well on the vast curve of the Hirschhorn’s circular gallery wall.

Calder and Nevelson

Hirschhorn gave his enormous collection of over 6,000 pieces to the United States with a two million dollar endowment. He made only two stipulations: that he chose the architecture, and that the Smithsonian bear the cost of building it. He attached no other strings: allowing the Smithsonian free rein to sell pieces to raise money for new purchases, thus keeping the museum truly one of contemporary art.

As for the architecture: so many art museums make the viewer feel a bit like a creature in a maze, but not so, here. His choice of circular, (but not concentric) spaces created a serene, arcing promenade, allowing the viewer to orbit around and among the sculpture, always completing, closing the circle. Very satisfying, as is the view of the sky over the central court, softly muted with scrims to admit light without great distraction. Again, serenity heightens the experience of the art.

View of the Mall from the Hirshhorn

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