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Visiting the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

Hirshhorn Museum Washington DC

Experience art through a new lens at this architectural wonder

What is the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and where is it?

The Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden displays some of the most unique artworks in modern and contemporary art, including painting, sculpture and photography. Located at the corner of 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW on the National Mall, the museum is passionate about creating shared experiences among artists, their art and audiences. Founded in 1974 by renowned art collector Joseph H. Hirshhorn, curators continue to expand the collection of the museum, which now boasts more than 12,000 pieces.

Hirshhorn Museum

The museum is open from 10 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. every day of the year except Dec. 25, and admission is always free. The Hirshhorn’s plaza opens at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 5:30 p.m., while the sculpture garden opens at the same time, but waits until dusk to close.

The easiest way to get there is via Metrorail or Metrobus. The closest Metro stop is Smithsonian, on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. The 32, 34 and 36 Metrobus routes will all take you to the National Mall. The museum is handicap-accessible.

What’s inside?

The majestic 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 coordinates gallery talks and demonstrations that allow these artists to come face-to-face with visitors. 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 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 emerging to well-established. Moving images are the requirement, 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.”

Of course, the Hirshhorn hosts in-depth exhibits outside of the realm of these series. You can always expect these exhibits to be edgy and innovative, highlighting artists and works that push the boundaries of what modern art can do. Keep an eye on current and upcoming exhibits as you plan your DC trip, as well as the museum’s regular programs, which include educational events, lectures and film screenings.

Hirshh Museum

What’s outside?

Although it’s easy to get caught up in what’s inside the Hirshhorn Museum, what’s outside of it is equally fascinating, as 197,000 square feet of total exhibition space is put to great use. Take some time to gaze at the museum’s architecture, a magnificent circular structure that is the perfect introduction to the forward-thinking creations found inside.

The famed Sculpture Garden (which measures 1.3 acres and is sunk 6-14 feet below street level) and accompanying plaza feature 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 also become a trademark of the Hirshhorn.

And make sure you fit in a stop to the Museum Shop, which features a great selection of exhibition catalogues, DVDs, postcards, books, posters and CDs.

What to do next

Explore the monuments and memorials or grab a bite to eat nearby.

Discover how history, science, art and culture come alive at the Smithsonian museums.