There is such an incredible amount of things to see in Washington D.C. (even more so given my proclivity to all things historic, natural, and scientific) that it is near impossible to see everything unless you live there for at least a month. Thus, lists have to be made, and sights ordered in preference and importance, and this then is exactly what I had to sit down and do when first planning my three day stopover in the United States capital. As it stands, it is pretty easy to single out my biggest regret in terms of places NOT visited – the National Gallery of Art, one of the United States’ greatest art museums. That said, at least there is the small consolation prize of having walked through this institution’s playful Sculpture Garden – though I’m not sure if this makes me happy or just more sad at having missed out on visiting the real thing!
Sandwiched between the beautiful neoclassical West Building and the modern East Building of the National Gallery of Art complex, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is the most recent addition to the art museum, having opened its gates to the public in May 1999. It acts as an outdoor setting for exhibiting several pieces from the museum’s contemporary sculpture collection, and is anchored by a large central fountain which from December through to March is converted to an ice-skating rink.
Housing classic contemporary works like Roy Lichtenstein’s House I, Robert Indiana’s AMOR, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, the sculpture garden provides a small escape from the noise and the crowds plodding about the National Mall, where you can either amble through and discover work from names like Joan Miro, Tony Smith, Mark di Suvero, Barry Flanagan, and Roxy Paine (whose tall shiny Graft steals attention as you walk in), or simply sit down with a coffee and admire the view from a table at the artfully decorated outdoor Pavilion Cafe.
To be fair, contemporary art, and contemporary sculpture in particular, is not to everyone’s taste, but it does exist and thus definitely counts as something to see – especially if you are someone who like me enjoys constantly seeing something a little new and maybe just a bit out of the ordinary.