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Visitors at the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall - Free art museum in Washington, DC

Fall 2024 Museum Exhibits & Experiences to Check Out in Washington, DC

The District’s museums offer a great lineup of exhibits and cultural experiences throughout the fall.

Arts and culture reign each fall in Washington, DC, as both theaters and museums debut new attractions. Below, we’ve gathered some of the most intriguing exhibits and displays to be found at DC’s museums throughout the season. Don't forget: many of DC's museums can be visited for free.

Staging the Supernatural: Ghosts and the Theater in Japanese Prints – Through Oct. 6
The Japanese Edo period (1603–1868) gave credence to essential ideas about the supernatural in Japanese culture. Many of the beliefs that came to prominence during this time are still held as conventional wisdom today. This exhibit at the National Museum of Asian Art allows you to explore the roles that ghosts and spirits play in the retelling of Japanese legends as well as real events. Staging the Supernatural features woodblock prints and illustrated books that showcase the spooky specters that haunt the Japanese theater traditions of noh and kabuki.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free Admission
National Museum of Asian Art, 1050 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Park Chan-kyong: Gathering – Through Oct. 13
The Seoul-based Park Chan-kyong has gained international recognition for photography and film that has been unflinching in its examination of the history of modern Korea. The National Museum of Asian Art will showcase the first solo presentation of his work in a major U.S. museum. The exhibition features images that highlight the artists’ masterful use of the camera to capture tradition, history and disaster in a contemporary society.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free Admission
National Museum of Asian Art, 1050 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Recent Acquisitions – Through Oct. 27
The National Portrait Gallery’s annual display of its most recent additions will feature 21 pieces this fall. The latest iteration of the exhibit will focus exclusively on portraits representing women or made by women. Subjects include Beyoncé, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writer Octavia Butler, actress Greta Garbo and many more.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free Admission
National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20001

 

Sewn in America: Making, Meaning, Memory – Through Dec. 31
The DAR Museum presents a groundbreaking exhibit featuring sewn items from every textile section of its collections including clothing, household items, needlework and quilts. Sewn in America examines how the activity shaped gender roles, from the homestead to professions like dressmaking, tailoring and factory work. Pieces from the 18th century to today will be juxtaposed to show how women of diverse backgrounds have used needles to express emotions and battle injustice.
Hours |  Free Admission
DAR Museum, 1776 D Street NW, Washington, DC 20006

 

Imprints in Time – Through Jan. 5, 2025
The recently renovated and reopened Folger Shakespeare Library offers a special exhibition filled with objects rarely displayed to the public. Visitors can go on a journey through time and space, from the tombs of ancient Egypt all the way to the surface of the Moon. Stuart and Mimi Rose’s collection of manuscripts and books informs a momentous survey of human history, knowledge and creativity.
Hours | Free Admission
Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003

 

Star Power: Photographs from Hollywood’s Golden Age by George Hurrell – Through Jan. 5, 2025
Hollywood’s premiere photographer during the onset of the studio system, George Hurrell set the template for how to capture the brightest stars of the cinematic universe. As MGM’s in-house portraitist and in his own studio, Hurrell used lighting expertise and the sharpest of eyes to create glamorous images of Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and many, many more. The National Portrait Gallery displays many of these Golden Era photographs in the new exhibit.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free Admission
National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20001

 

Fragile Beauty: Art of the Ocean at Hillwood

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Fragile Beauty: Art of the Ocean – Through Jan. 5, 2025
In honor of the majesty of the ocean, Hillwood showcases a variety of marine-related art in its collection for the very first time. Originally inspired by the rediscovery of one of the largest paintings at Hillwood (once owned by Marjorie Post's father, C.W. Post), Fragile Beauty explores representations of water and art crafted by precious materials.
Hours & Admission
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, 4155 Linnean Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
 

Conversations: Kerry James Marshall and John Singleton Copley – Through Jan. 31, 2025
The National Gallery of Art opens its second installation as part of the Conversations series, which focuses on three masterpieces from artists working nearly two centuries apart. An 18th century canvas by John Singleton Copley and two 20th century works by Kerry James Marshall each address the horrors of the Middle Passage and the transatlantic slave trade. Visitors can consider each in a shared exhibition space for the first time.
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. |  Free Admission
National Gallery of Art, 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC

 

Brilliant Exiles: American Women in Paris, 1900-1939 – Through Feb. 23, 2025
Be amazed by sixty defiant women who made the courageous decision to cross the Atlantic Ocean to pursue their artistic dreams immersed in the majesty of Paris and its dynamic cultural scene. Brilliant Exiles marks the first exhibition to focus on the impact of American women on Paris – and of Paris on American women – from 1900 to the outbreak of the second World War. You can gaze at portraits of icons such as Josephine Baker, Isadora Duncan, Zelda Fitzgerald, Loïs Mailou Jones, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Anaïs Nin, Gertrude Stein, Ethel Waters and Anna May Wong.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free Admission
National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20001

 

Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Community Museum

A Bold and Beautiful Vision: A Century of Black Arts Education in Washington, DC, 1900-2000 – Through March 2, 2025
The Anacostia Community Museum sheds light on fascinating local history with an exhibit featuring captivating original artworks, rare video footage and can't-miss artifacts including Alma Thomas’s paintbrushes and watercolor paint set, an early 20th-century lifelike marionette that William Buckner made with his local high school students, original Elizabeth Catlett prints that once hung in the halls of her DC high school and Sam Gilliam pieces from his tenure as a teacher at McKinley Technical High School. Experience the influence, power and creativity of the Black artist-educators who empowered generations of DC students.
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. |  Free Admission
Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Place SE, Washington, DC 20020

 

Bond In Motion – Through April 2025
Across more than six decades of films, James Bond has become the on-screen embodiment of spies for millions. The International Spy Museum pays homage to the fictional character, along with his allies and adversaries, with a breathtaking display of iconic vehicles from the movies. In total, visitors can fix their eyes on 17 pieces, including cars, motorcycles, submarines and even more from the Q Branch Garage. 
Hours & Admission
International Spy Museum, 700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024

 

Grandma Moses, 'The Old Oaken Bucket', 1945.

Grandma Moses, 'The Old Oaken Bucket', 1945.

Revolutions: Art from the Hirshhorn Collection, 1860-1960 – Through April 20, 2025
This year, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden brings you one exciting event after another in celebration of their 50th anniversary. The museum's latest exhibit features works from more than 120 artists, so we suggest giving yourself plenty of time to soak up all the wonder. The revolutionary installation offers well-known masterpieces alongside contemporary creations from a wide range of artists including Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet, Lee Krasner, Wifredo Lam, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollock.
10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. |  Free admission
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue & 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass – Through Nov. 26, 2026
The first joint acquisition of the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (the two share a building) is Sir Isaac Julien’s fascinating moving image installation, which blends period reenactments across give screens to give the viewer insight into the life, accomplishments, activism and brilliance of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895).
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free Admission
National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20001

 

Do Ho Suh: Public Figures – Through April 29, 2029
South Korean artist Do Ho Suh has created a special edition of his work Public Figures for installation at the very front of the National Museum of Asian Art, signifying the next phase of the museum. Suh was commissioned for the project thanks to his outstanding international reputation. He was one of the earliest contemporary artists featured at the museum and this new sculpture will be the first installed outside the Freer Gallery of Art in more than 30 years.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free Admission
National Museum of Asian Art, 1050 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Change Your Game Ongoing
The National Museum of American History’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention developed a new exhibit filled with interactive elements that highlight the intersection of invention, sports and technology. Items on display include a prototype of the Jogbra from the 1970s, a football helmet with Crash Cloud prototype to help protect the brain, a Hawk-Eye camera used during the pandemic by the U.S. Open to automate line calls and prostheses that made extreme sports possible for athletes with amputations.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free Admission
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 1300 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Building Stories Ongoing
The National Building Museum invites your family to embark on an immersive exploration of architecture, construction, engineering and design found in children’s books. Curated by children’s literature expert Leonard Marcus, Building Stories marks the first national exhibition to showcase the built environment’s role as an essential character in formative tales of our collective youth. Expect plenty of interactive elements.
Hours & Admission
National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

 

John Akomfrah: Five Murmurations – Ongoing
Artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and worldwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter in a visual essay to define our turbulent times. Utilizing an image archive filled with seminal works of art and scenes shot during the fraught 18-month period between 2019 and 2021, Five Murmurations features insights into post-colonialism, diasporic experience and the concept of collective memory.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free Admission
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Glen Kaino: Bridge – Opens July 26
This jaw-dropping aerial sculpture is comprised of 200 golden arms hanging from the ceiling of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Center. Each piece is a casting of the outstretched right arm of Tommie Smith, the American winner of the men’s 200-meter race at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. During the medal ceremony, Smith bowed his head and raised his Black-gloved fist in an act of protest. Decades later, Glen Kaino collaborated with Smith on the grand statement of an installation.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Free Admission
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

Tuan Andrew Nguyen: The Island Aug. 16 – May 4, 2025
In his DC debut, Tuan Andrew Nguyen presents his video work The Island (2017) alongside the sculpted headdress Bidong Spirit I, which was created specifically for the film. Both works were inspired by and reference the Malaysian island of Pulau Bidong, a landing place for Vietnamese escaping by boat after South Vietnam’s collapse in 1975.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Free Admission
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th & G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

An Epic of Kings: The Great Mongol Shahnama – Aug. 31 – Jan. 5, 2025
One of the most celebrated medieval Persian manuscripts – considered the national epic of Iran as it covers the beginning of time through the 7th century – informs a new exhibit at the National Museum of Asian Art. The Great Mongol Shahnama (now dismantled) includes stories and illustrations; the exhibit offers a rare opportunity to view 25 folios from the manuscript alongside contemporaneous works from China, the Mediterranean and the Latin West.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. | Free Admission
National Museum of Asian Art, 1050 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Paris 1874: The Impressionist Moment – Sept. 8 – Jan. 19, 2025
Discover the origins of one of the most important art movements in history thanks to a new exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. The museum is replicating a legendary exhibit from Paris in 1874 that helped bring about the dawn of Impressionism. In the display, you will be able to view beloved paintings by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissaro and many more.
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. | Free Admission
National Gallery of Art, 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC

 

In the Library: Life in the Impressionists’ Paris – Sept. 9 – Jan. 20, 2025
A companion piece to Paris 1874, the National Gallery of Art displays dozens of photographs and prints in its Library Atrium. The exhibit provides insight and context for the great late 19th-century Impressionist works as the images illuminate a society changing rapidly thanks to industrialization, widespread military clashes, new technologies and the redefinition of urban spaces.
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. | Free Admission
National Gallery of Art, 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC

 

Sublime Light: Tapestry Art of DY Begay – Sept. 20 – Summer 2025
In honor of one of the great fiber artists, the National Museum of the American Indian showcases 48 works by DY Begay. Across these dozens of tapestries, Begay explores her homeland and heritage through a divine sense of color, stirring innovation and sharp eye for design. Her pieces effectively illustrate a non-Western way of being to contemporary audiences.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. | Free Admission
National Museum of the American Indian, 4th Street & Independence Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Spirit & Strength: Modern Art from Haiti – Sept. 29 – March 9, 2025
The world’s first Black republic flourished with creativity in the mid-1900s thanks to seminal painters like Hector Hyppolite, Rigaud Benoît and Philomé Obin. Their images and depictions of Haitian daily life, religious traditions and history influenced generations of artists. The National Gallery of Art’s exhibit offers the first chance to see 21 works by Haitian artists as well as contemporary pieces that build on their illuminative legacy.
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. | Free Admission
National Gallery of Art, 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC

 

OSMEGEOS: Endless Story – Sept. 29 – July 6, 2025
Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo are the identical twin brothers that comprise OSMEGEOS, which is Portuguese for “the twins.” The Hirshhorn Museum presents the first U.S. survey and the largest American exhibition of work by the duo to date. In total, the full-floor exhibit features roughly 1,000 artworks, photos and archival materials that detail OSMEGEOS’ unique artistic voice that combines heritage, urban art, graffiti and magical elements.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. | Free Admission
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue & 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20560

 

The ‘70s Lens: Reimagining Documentary Photography Oct. 6 – April 6, 2025
Across a wondrous collection of roughly 100 works by more than 80 artists, the National Gallery of Art gives visitors a chance to explore the dramatic shift in documentary photography that played out during the turmoil-filled decade of the 1970s. As Americans faced the Watergate scandal, inflation, energy crises and a host of other developments, documentary photographers shifted their collective perspective, leading to brilliant images that depict vibrant communities, suburban sprawl, conceptual art, nature and much more.
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. | Free Admission
National Gallery of Art, 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC

 

William Gropper: Artist of the People – Oct. 12 – Jan. 5, 2025
The Phillips Collection presents DC’s first exhibit dedicated to William Gropper, a social realist whose art addressed mid-20th century political issues with feverish satire and brutal honesty. The son of poor immigrants from Romania and Ukraine, Gropper provided searing commentary on anarchy, labor, democracy, freedom and human rights across thousands of published illustrations, more than 30 of which will be on display at the Phillips.
Hours & Admission
The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20009

 

Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Always to Return – Oct. 18 – July 6, 2025
The National Portrait Gallery and the Archives of American Art present an exhibition that goes in-depth on artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ engagement with portraiture, identity and history. Gonzalez-Torres’ groundbreaking work revolutionized the artform, elevating the notion of what a portrait could be.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Free Admission
Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

Breaking It Down: Conversations from the Vault Nov. 2 – Jan. 19, 2025
From the outset, Phillips Collection founder Duncan Phillips and his wife, Marjorie, aimed to celebrate individual artists and key aspects of their vision and spirit. In a new exhibit, the museum serves up a deep dive (and new takes) on artists who have come to define the Collection, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Paul Klee, Saam Gilliam and Arthur Dove. Modern groundbreakers like Sean Scully, Joyce Wellman and Sylvia Snowden will also be showcased.
Hours & Admission
The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20009

 

Pictures of Belonging: Miki Hayakawa, Hisako Hibi and Miné Okubo – Nov. 15 – Aug. 17, 2025
The work of three essential American artists of Japanese descent – all women – is explored in-depth at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Breathtaking in scope, the exhibit proves that Miki Hayakawa, Hisako Hibi and Miné Okubo should be mentioned alongside all the great artistic visionaries in American history. Each suffered through relocation and incarceration during WWII, but were not defined by it, coming to create magnificent and resonant works.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Free Admission
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th & G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

The Print Generation – Nov. 16 – April 27, 2025
The National Museum of Asian Art presents a selection of prints, crafted using a new approach as part of the sōsaku hanga (creative print) movement, that tore down the notion of the early-20th century Japanese artist. Made during a time of imperialist expansion, foreign occupation and wartime scarcity, these innovative works broke the constructs of traditional Japanese printmaking and garnered international recognition and acclaim.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. | Free Admission
National Museum of Asian Art, 1050 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20560

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