Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation's first collection of American art, is an unparalleled
record of the American experience. The collection captures the aspirations, character and imagination of
the American people throughout three centuries.
The museum's historic Greek Revival building in the heart of Washington's new downtown cultural
district has been meticulously renovated with expanded permanent collection galleries and innovative new
public spaces. The museum shares its main building with the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery; both
museums share a joint main entrance at Eighth and F streets N.W. Collectively, the two museums and their
activities are known as the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the largest collections of American art in the
world. Its holdings -- more than 41,000 works -- tell the stories of America through the visual arts and
represent the most inclusive collection of American art of any museum today. Artworks in the collection
reveal key aspects of America's rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. More
than 7,000 American artists are represented in the collection, including major masters such as John
Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt,
Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney, Lee
Friedlander, Nam June Paik, Martin Puryear and Robert Rauschenberg. In recent years, the museum has
strengthened its commitment to contemporary art through curatorial appointments, endowments,
acquisitions and an annual artist award.
The museum has been a leader in identifying significant aspects of American visual culture and actively
collecting and exhibiting works of art before many other major public collections. The museum has the
largest collection of New Deal art and the finest collections of contemporary craft, and American
impressionist paintings and masterpieces from the Gilded Age. Other pioneering collections include
historic and contemporary folk art; work by African American and Latino artists; photography from its
origins in the 19th century to contemporary works; images of western expansion; and realist art from the
first half of the 20th century.
In 1968, the collection moved into its current historic home located at Eighth and F streets N.W. Praised by
Walt Whitman as the "noblest of Washington buildings," this landmark is considered one of the finest
examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. Begun in 1836 and completed in 1868, it is
one of the oldest public buildings constructed in early Washington, and was the site of Abraham Lincoln's
inaugural ball in March 1865. The building was always intended for public display of patent models and
the government's historical, scientific and art collections. A National Historic Landmark, the building was
saved from the wrecking ball in 1955, and Congress transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1958. The recent
renovation (2000-2006) revealed the full magnificence of the building's architectural features, including a
curving double staircase, vaulted galleries, large windows and skylights as long as a city block.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum's traveling exhibition program has circulated hundreds of
exhibitions since it was established in 1951. From 2000 to 2005, the museum organized 14 exhibitions of
more than 1,000 major artworks from its permanent collection that traveled to 105 venues across the
United States. More than 2.5 million visitors saw these exhibitions.
The museum is a leader in providing electronic resources to schools and the public through its national
education program. The museum also maintains seven online research databases with more than 1 million
records. Each year, more than 250,000 researchers from across the globe use these resources. "Ask Joan of
Art," the museum's online reference service, began in 1993 and is the longest running arts-based service of
its kind in the United States.