The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden displays some of the most exciting pieces in modern and contemporary art, including painting, sculpture and photography. The museum is passionate about creating shared experiences among artists, their art and audiences. The Hirshhorn also offers educational and public programs and is extremely active in the realms of acquisition, outreach, research and conservation. Founded in 1974 by renowned art collector Joseph H. Hirshhorn, the museum has upheld its mission of expressing the cultural power and significance of modern art in all of its forms. Curators continue to expand the collection of the Hirshhorn, which now boasts more than 12,000 pieces. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden receives over 600,000 visitors per year.
The Hirshhorn has a rotating roster of exhibitions, steadily engaging audiences with the finest in modern and contemporary artwork. Its Directions Series focuses solely on one artist, allowing the individual to showcase their work in any number of mediums. The Hirshhorn then promotes ways for these artists to become engaged with audiences, through gallery talks and demonstrations. This experimental mode of highlighting a particular artist for a period of time, then constantly refreshing with new artists, keeps the museum at the epicenter of modern art. The ever-evolving series leads to major benefits for visitors looking to be in the know when it comes to contemporary work.
The Black Box Series has also become a staple of the Hirshhorn. This “quick-response venue” showcases new media work from an array of artists, from those who are emerging to those who are well-established within the art world. Moving images are the requirement for this series, as artists have done everything from shooting films with a cast and crew to using cutting edge animation techniques. And again, access to the artist is an important aspect, as artist programs are used to draw the observer closer to “what happens behind the screen”. There is also the Works Series, in which invited artists create a temporary piece on a part of museum grounds or in the building. This use of the museum as both studio and medium helps visitors gain a better understanding of the Hirshhorn.
Finally, there is the Sculpture Garden, situated outside of the building. This area features works from multiple artists, displaying their achievements in an open area that is easy to navigate. One of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures, entitled The Burghers of Calais, can be found here. Other popular works include Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC and David Smith’s Cubi XII. The nearby courtyard area boasts a circular fountain that has become a trademark of the Hirshhorn.
The Hirshhorn Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. The plaza opens at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 5:30 p.m. The sculpture garden also opens at 7:30 a.m., but stays open until dusk. Admission is free.
The Hirshhorn is located on the National Mall, at the corner of 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW. Parking is very scarce in this part of DC, so public transportation is highly recommended. Any one of the following Metro stops on the Blue and Orange lines are just a short walk away from the Hirshhorn: Smithsonian, L’Enfant Plaza and Federal Center. If you go the bus route, the 32, 34 and 36 Metrobus routes are ideal.
The facilities are all handicap-accessible and wheelchairs are available at the museum on a first-come, first-serve basis, free of charge. All areas of the museum have elevator service as well.
And make sure you fit in a stop to the Museum Shop, which features a great selection of exhibition catalogues, DVDs, postcards, books, posters, CDs and much more.
Due to its ideal location on the National Mall, a visit to the Hirshhorn can entail a fascinating trip to the heart of DC. A short walk from the Hirshhorn will bring you to the National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History is also close by. Of course, there are the wondrous national monuments collected on the National Mall: the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the White House, the Capitol Building and more. Downtown DC surrounds the Mall and features a fantastic array of restaurants and attractions.
- The Hirshhorn Museum’s founder, Joseph H. Hirshhorn, immigrated to the United States from Latvia at the age of eight.
- The museum’s architect, Gordon Bunshaft, also oversaw the building of One Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York City.
- Indoors and outdoors, the Hirshhorn boasts 197,000 square feet of total exhibition space.
- Joseph H. Hirshhorn launched a career as a financier at age sixteen with savings of $255.
- The sculpture garden measures 1.3 acres and is sunk 6-14 feet below street level.