Visitors to the nation's capital, Washington D.C., can reasonably expect world class levels of art and culture. With an eclectic array of performing arts and internationally renowned museums, D.C. is a hub of edifying leisure options that reflect the rich international culture of the big city. As such, art lovers will find much to appreciate in the hallowed art halls of the Federal City. National art museums house some of America's most precious art collections while independent art houses host a selection of cutting edge art. The art scene in Washington D.C. showcases the nation's artistic culture, and reflects the abundance and diversity of American art as well as the international art that calls America home.
You'd expect the United States' National Gallery to be something pretty special, and you'd be right. A striking, expansive facade opens into one of the nation's most comprehensive art collections, featuring work from many of the world's greats. Less overwhelming than NYC's biggest art museums - both in terms of crowds and content - the National Gallery is a peaceful, well constructed testament to America's love for art. A highly informative guided tour makes the large collection manageable and allows even art rookies to fully appreciate the dazzling exhibits.
You don't have to love fine art to appreciate the fascinating displays at the National Portrait Gallery. The innumerable portraits of great people by great artists make a trip to the National Portrait Gallery an engaging, personal journey through national and international history and culture. From the full collection of presidential portraits to abstract art to portraits of current celebrities, the works on display at the National Portrait Gallery are exciting and diverse enough to hold your attention through all four exhibit-packed floors.
This Smithsonian gallery is a relatively inconspicuous but historical feature of the National Mall. The Freer gallery (alongside the Arthur M. Sackler gallery) constitutes the most complete collection of Asian art in Washington D.C. - indeed, this is one of the most comprehensive collections in the United States. The collections at the Freer Gallery largely feature cultural studies of Asia through fine art and artifacts, though some temporary exhibits explore European and American art. A notable collection of paintings, along with stunning ceramics and tapestries, offer an engaging look at Asian culture for both enthusiasts of the specialist area and first-timers alike.
Just down the road from the White House is the unassuming Renwick Gallery, home to an array of engaging art. Novelty meets tradition here, as moving installations appear alongside fine art and regularly rotating exhibits offer unique perspectives on a wide range of artistic traditions. Entry is free to this relatively small museum, making it a worthwhile way to pass a spare hour or two. However, art enthusiasts will have to wait a while before exploring this particular treasure trove, as it's currently closed for renovations and will reopen in December 2015.
The Corcoran Gallery, housed in an attractive, classic piece of Washington architecture, strongly focuses on American art dating back to the 18th century. As a trip through American art history, the Corcoran Gallery is immersive and comprehensive without overwhelming. The variety of striking art on display occasionally branches out from the territory of strictly North American art to European classics and current art from young, modern artists. While there's a cover charge for this one - a perhaps unwelcome break from the norm in D.C. - this art museum is a more relaxed, slightly hipper option than the many Smithsonian museums across the city.