It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Smithsonian These Days

Proof of this can be seen right now in the Renwick Gallery, the part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum that’s devoted to decorative arts and contemporary crafts. The very first purpose-built art museum in the country—serving, from 1874 to 1897, as the inaugural home of the now-defunct Corcoran Gallery—it reopened last fall after two years’ worth of renovation that ranged from rusticated base to mansard roof. To celebrate, such monumental (in every sense of the word) artists as Maya Lin, Tara Donovan, and Patrick Dougherty took possession, room by room, of the two-story Second Empire structure. The first week of May is your last chance to see the installations on the second floor, which include Lin’s rendition of the Chesapeake Bay basin made with green marbles, John Grade’s cast-plaster hemlock tree, and Chakaia Booker’s labyrinth of dead tires. The first floor “wonders” will stay on view, however, through July 10, so you have till then to witness Donovan’s towering spires of stacked index cards and Dougherty’s exuberant, twiggy Shindig.

Jennifer Angus Renwick Wonder

Jennifer Angus, In the Midnight Garden, 2015

Chakaia Booker Renwick Wonder

Chakaia Booker Renwick Wonder

Chakaia Booker, ANONYMOUS DONOR, 2015

Renwick Wonder

Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1, 2015 – Courtesy of Conduit Gallery

Tara Donovan Renwick Wonder

Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2014 – © Tara Donovan, Courtesy of Pace Gallery.


Patrick Dougherty Renwick Wonder

Patrick Dougherty, Shindig, 2015

John Grade Renwick Wonder


John Grade, Middle Fork, 2015


Renwick Wonder

Maya Lin, Folding the Chesapeake, 2015


All Photos Courtesy of Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, by Ron Blunt

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