National Building Museum
The wall / El Muro: what is a border wall?
Until November 2022
This exhibition examines the border wall between the United States and Mexico from an architectural and design perspective. By focusing on the built environment, visitors will understand that a boundary wall makes something real – and internationally consistent – otherwise meant to be symbolic. Addressing the myriad of ways the architecture and security landscape surrounds us, the show challenges how we imagine America at its limits. The border is a place, but it also comes across as a symbol of both America’s vulnerability and state power. The show deploys photographs, videos, artifacts and immersive experiences to help illuminate the role of design, architecture, planning and engineering in the realm of national security and geopolitics. The exhibition places the wall in the larger international context of shifting border lines, the early construction of border fences, and old and new border walls across the world, encouraging the public to engage in this international conversation.
National Museum of Asian Art
Prehistoric spirals: Earthenware from Thailand
Opening at the end of December or the beginning of January (to be determined)
Red-painted spirals swirl in distinct patterns across the surface of prehistoric vessels, testifying to the sophisticated material and aesthetic cultures of northeastern Thailand over two thousand years ago. Their makers belonged to a loose network of colonies specializing in the production of bronze and ceramics. Tragically, the region has been heavily looted in recent history. The pots, once ritually buried in graves as objects of prestige and memory, have been recklessly unearthed and stripped of their historical context. As a result, little is known about these ships and the people who made them. Recent research into their materials, techniques and designs opens up new avenues of inquiry into the heritage of the region to help celebrate Thailand’s deep cultural and material heritage.
American art museum
Sargent, Whistler and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano
Until May 2022
To Sargent, Whistler, and many of their clients, Venetian glassware was irresistibly beautiful, and collecting these exquisite vases expressed respect for both history and innovation. By recreating their transatlantic journey – from the Murano ovens to American salons and museums – this exhibition brings to life the revival of Venetian glass at the end of the 19th century and the artistic experimentation that the city inspired in guest artists. This is the first comprehensive review of American tourism, artistic creation, and art collecting in Venice, revealing glass kilns and their new creative boom as a dynamic facet of the city’s allure.
Between 1860 and 1915, Murano glassmakers began to specialize in delicate and intricate hand-blown vessels, dazzling the world with brilliant colors and virtuoso sculptural adornments. This revival of glass coincided with an increase in Venice’s popularity as a tourist destination, which led to frequent performances of Italian glassmakers and glass objects by foreign artists. In addition, the inventions of the master glassmakers of Murano made Venice a center of artistic experimentation. Stays in Venice were turning points for John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler and dozens of artists who followed in their footsteps, often referring to the glass industry in their works. Showcasing over 140 objects, this exhibition features a choice selection of glass vessels conversing with works of art from the many talented American artists who found inspiration in Venice.
National Art Gallery
The photographs of James Van Der Zee: a portrait of Harlem
Until May 2022
Photographer James Van Der Zee has created an extraordinary chronicle of life in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s and beyond. Residents of this predominantly black New York City neighborhood have turned to Van Der Zee and his camera to mark special occasions. His carefully composed cosmopolitan photographs reflected the personality, aspirations and spirit of his models. Some 40 works in the National Gallery’s collection feature the studio portraits of Van Der Zee, as well as his photographs of Harlem nightclubs and storefronts, as well as religious, social, political and athletic community groups. Together, they provide a glimpse into the rich social life of Harlem, which became an influential center of American culture during the Harlem Renaissance.
Laurie Anderson: The weather forecast
Until July 2022
This is the largest exhibition of works of art in the United States by groundbreaking multimedia artist, performer, musician and writer Laurie Anderson, showcasing more than a dozen new works, interspersed with key works selected, throughout his five decades of career. Guiding visitors through an immersive audiovisual experience, this dynamic exhibition showcases the artist’s limitless creative storytelling process, showcasing his work in video, performance, installation, painting, and other media. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of live performances by Anderson until July 2022.
As a Grammy Award-winning musician, performer, writer and artist, Anderson has an international reputation as an artist who combines avant-garde traditions with popular culture. His theatrical works combine a variety of media including performance, music, poetry, sculpture and opera. She also released seven albums for Warner Brothers, including Big Science, with the song “O Superman” which rose to number two on the UK pop charts.
The Phillips collection
Alma W. Thomas: Everything is beautiful
Until January 23, 2022
The long and dynamic life of Alma W. Thomas (1891-1978) and her multifaceted career was defined by constant creativity. This major retrospective traces her journey from semi-rural Georgia to Washington, DC, to becoming the first black woman to be exhibited solo at the Whitney Museum of American Art at the age of 81. Through works of art and archival material, this exhibition shows how the broad reach of artistic practices extended far beyond his studio, shaping every facet of his life – from community service to teaching in going through gardening.
In 1907, Thomas and her family emigrated from Columbus, Georgia, to DC, and in 1924 she became the first graduate of the Howard University art department. For 35 years and in a segregated city, she enabled art students at Shaw Junior High School to see beauty in everyday life and provided opportunities for exhibition and cultural enrichment for black youth.
Everything Is Beautiful contextualizes the art and life of Thomas within his creative community. Some of his works are placed alongside examples of his friends and contemporaries like Lois Mailou Jones and Morris Louis who also helped shape the DC art scene. The exhibition offers an intimate look at this inspiring cultural icon who used her imagination and ingenuity to lead a rich and beautiful life.