Art, architecture and landscape come together at this fascinating indoor-outdoor museum near Washington, DC.
What you should know before going to Glenstone
Glenstone is located at 12100 Glen Road in Potomac, Md., roughly 40 minutes from downtown DC by car. Parking is readily available. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Glenstone asks that its guests reserve a visit in advance online. Visits can be scheduled on the half hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are released on the first of every month for the next three months (for example, December tickets will be available on Oct. 1). If you arrive without a reservation, Glenstone will work to accommodate you, but reservations are highly recommended.
Admission to the museum is always free. Due to the fragility of the works on view, all visitors to Glenstone must be 12 or older and all minors (ages 12-17) must be accompanied by an adult at all times. While photography is not allowed inside the museum, guests can take photos of the outdoor artworks for their Instagram and for personal use. Glenstone does not allow the use auxiliary lighting, selfie sticks, drones, tripods or commercial photography of any kind.
Glenstone presents a holistic experience of art, architecture and landscape, a central part of the mission of its founders, Emily and Mitch Rales. The museum features two gallery buildings, numerous outdoor sculptures and more than 230 acres of landscape in total. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, as a visit to Glenstone is a journey in and of itself.
The museum also wants to provide you with a relaxing environment fit for contemplation of its thought-provoking pieces of art, hence the scheduled visits. If you’re looking to be truly immersed in both mind and body during a museum-going experience, Glenstone is the perfect fit.
What you will find at Glenstone
Glenstone initially opened in 2006 as one gallery building featuring 9,000 square feet of exhibition space overlooking a three-acre pond, with an accompanying assortment of sculptures outdoors. However, on Oct. 4, 2018, the museum unveiled its extensive additions to the public, the culmination of a 15-year process. Glenstone now features a series of indoor and outdoor spaces that showcase post-World War II artworks that will challenge visitors to think deeply while also providing a global perspective on seminal art from the past 70 years. The collection is considered one of the best in the United States.
Your experience at Glenstone begins with the Arrival Hall, a new building in which you can get a sense of the museum’s minimalist design aesthetic and peruse a gift shop filled with books that highlight and illuminate modern and abstract art.
The Pavilions are your next stop, but not before a brisk 7-minute walk on a peaceful trail. Along the way, you’ll see Jeff Koons’ The Split Rocker perched on a hill, perhaps the museum’s signature piece. This intersection of art with nature is an essential component of Glenstone.
Note that Glenstone Guides, dressed entirely in gray, will appear throughout your voyage. The Guides are there to inform, but also to listen to your interpretations of the art that you’re seeing. They’re a replacement for explanatory and lifeless diatribes you often see on walls at other museums. Glenstone is all about allowing you to slow down and interact with the art on your own terms.
As the Pavilions emerge into your view, you’ll be struck by the 204,000-square-foot building embedded into the middle of a vast field. Like something out of a Stanley Kubrick film, the Pavilions stand out as a futuristic, bright white beacon on the grounds, with stacked blocks of concrete and inset glass allowing for natural light to stream through. Although the Pavilions houses breathtaking art, the building is an artistic and architectural marvel itself.
Inside, you’ll find 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, including 13 individual spaces for art. Some will feature rotating exhibitions, while others are custom-built for the work of a particular artist, which stresses the fact that Glenstone always aims to sustain an artist’s vision when displaying his or her work. At the center of the Pavilions is an 18,000-square-foot water court, adorned by seasonally changing plant life – yet another example of art and nature intersecting.
The Pavilion’s exhibition spaces contain wonders, whether you’re observing the 65 works inside the Room 2 Installation (which includes pieces by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and Barbara Kruger, among many others) or a single piece showcased on its own, like Michael Heizer’s Collapse or Robert Gober’s stunning rumination on nature, Untitled (1992). The collection is not limited to paintings and sculptures, either: Pipilotti Rist’s Ever Is Over All video is an astonishing and captivating highlight.
There’s much more in store beyond the Pavilions. Next, let outdoor paths and trails guide you through the additional acreage at Glenstone. Along the way, you’ll see streams, meadows and forests in addition to mind-bending works such as Andy Goldsworthy’s Clay Houses (Boulder-Room-Holes), which can be found on the Woodland Trail, Tony Smith’s Smug and Richard Serra’s Sylvester, located next to the original Glenstone Gallery.
During your extensive Glenstone excursion, hunger and thirst may strike. No worries: the museum has also added a new cafe, set into the forest and the perfect place to stop during your exploration of the property.
When observed in total, a trip to Glenstone is not simply a trip to an art museum. The expansiveness of the property and its architecture and artwork, all graced by the tranquility of nature, makes one feel that they’ve journeyed to another world altogether. Your sense of time can vanish as you are consumed by a mixture of artistic, architectural and natural beauty that you won’t find anywhere else in the Washington, DC area.