Our universe is all about art. On the surface, things appear to be in a random order, but when we pay attention to the structure of the universe, we are able to find that everything exists in patterns. It can be assumed that through these patterns, the human race created art forms that enabled us to visualize and present the thoughts and ideas. These art forms also enabled us to create replicas of various living and non-living beings such as statues and paintings. As civilization moved forward and the artists emerged, several of their creations became famous and communities of connoisseurs and even the federal authorities decided to preserve these artworks. This gave birth to museums which house the artworks of the artists in the ancient and recent times, and are visited by the tourists from different parts of the world. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. was an initiative in this regard. Operational since 1937, this museum is the second most visited art museum of America and the 6th most visited museum of the world.
While the First World War was in progress, Andrew W. Mellon, an industrialist who was also a famous banker and a philanthropist, was busy in accumulating artworks for his personal collection. However, he later decided that all his collections would be donated to a gallery that would house the artworks. He went ahead to form A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust. He planned that this trust would own all the artworks housed in the gallery. Within a few months, the trust acquired a total of 21 paintings from a museum in Russia.
In 1937, the Trust provided the collections and the funds to establish a new gallery, which received approvals from the Congress. The design of the museum building was proposed by John Russel Pope, an architect from America. Unfortunately, Pope and Mellon died in the same year and were unable to see how the museum turned out to be.
The site where the museum was being constructed was previously the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station. On March 17, 1941, the opening ceremony was held in the presence of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Upon its completion, the museum became the world’s largest structure made out of marble.
The East Building was added to the Gallery in 1970s. The funds for construction came from Mellon’s son Paul Mellon and daughter Alisa Mellon Bruce. Another addition was made in the form of National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in 1999.
All the three structures of the Gallery, the West Building, the East Building, and the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden are built in different design and style. Even the collections in all the three sections differ. While the West and the East Building provide an interior setting for display of collections, the Sculpture Garden is set in outdoor with a display of modern sculptures.
What to Do
The extensive collection of the gallery consists of paintings, sculptures, photographs, decorative arts, and works on paper. The guided tours help you learn about the details of gallery collections.
The collection of the paintings includes artwork dating back to the 13th century. Collections from France, Spain, Britain, Northern Europe, and other parts of the world enrich the experience of a tourist.
Musical events, apart from exhibitions, keep the visitors entertained throughout the year.
The art research library in the gallery contains over 400,000 books, along with several important documents and periodicals related to the history and theory of various art forms. This library remains open from 12:00 pm to 04:30 pm on Mondays and from 10:00 am to 04:30 pm from Tuesday to Friday. It remains closed on weekends and federal holidays.
Eat, Drink, Collect
To enjoy some of the finest salads, wraps, pizzas, sandwiches, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, the tourists can head to the Pavilion Cafe. This cafe is located near the Sculpture Garden and remains open from 10:00 am to 07:00 pm from Monday to Thursday, 10:00 to 09:00 pm on Friday and Saturday, and from 11:00 am to 07:00 pm on Sunday.
There are three outlets in the gallery for the ease of the visitors. The shop in the West Building sells replicas of artworks, artificial jewelry, gifts, and accessories.
The bookstore offers a wide range of books on photography, arts, architecture, etc.
A shop dedicated to children sells gifts, toys, games, and other children centric products.
Best Time to Visit
The gallery is open from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm from Monday to Saturday and 11:00 am to 06:00 pm on Sunday. The gallery remains closed on Christmas and New Year Day.
Entry to the gallery is free for all the visitors.
How to Reach
The closest metro stations to the gallery are Judiciary Square, Archives, and Smithsonian. Tourists can also board a metrobus or hire a private taxi to reach to the gallery.
Tourists arriving by private vehicles must remember that the limited parking space cannot accommodate vehicles of all the people visiting the gallery. So one must try to reach early or be ready to pay premium amount for parking in a garage.