Glenstone in Potomac, MD

In 2006 the Glenstone Foundation opened a not-for-profit modern and contemporary art museum in Potomac, Maryland. I spent a recent Sunday afternoon at Glenstone and was delighted that the weather was mild and sunny. The Pavilions, completed in late 2018, added 50,000 square feet for additional exhibition space. The 300 acres it is situated on is comprised of woodland trails to the outdoor sculptures, pavilions and cafes. It is breathtakingly beautiful, all of it, the setting, the art, the architecture.

Reader, I want to let you know that this post is going to be a bit different from my normal approach. Usually I use my own photos, since I think they give a flavor of what it would be like for you as a visitor on your own, like me. In this case, Glenstone has a very restrictive photo taking policy, which I of course respect and complied with. I’m choosing to use a majority of photos from their website because they are so much better than the outdoor ones I was able to take, and they also let me show you the art inside the pavilions.

As you walk toward the pavilions there is a Jeff Koons piece in the distance off to the left. In the summer months it will be covered with flowers.

photo credit Dan Howarth

To the right of the path you see the pavilions.

Children under the age of 12 are not allowed, and minors 12-17 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. There are lockers for bags, and coats, that you must put your items in before entering. No photography is permitted inside the pavilions, as mentioned above. Their website if full of information about the museum’s mission, art, architecture and nature.

The museum is always free of charge, but you need to make a reservation to visit.

A map marker of the property.

The setting is intended for people to enjoy art in a serene and open ended environment. Very limited text on the walls is provided. The gallery assistants in each room are dressed in “just so” grey dusters, matching grey shirts and pants, chic footwear and have their eyes on you at all times. They are quite knowledgable about the art in the rooms they cover, and eager to talk to you.

Left: Ellsworth Kelly, Untitled, 1996
176 1/2″ x 25 1/2 ” x 4 1/2 in

Right: Ellsworth Kelly, Spectrum IX, 2014
Acrylic on canvas
107 3/4″ x 96 in
photo from the Glenstone website

Currently Glenstone features three works by Kerry James Marshall and two by Ellsworth Kelly as their special exhibition. I thought Spectrum IX looked particularly amazing on the stacked blocks of concrete that are not only the facade of the pavilions, but the interior passageways as well. There are broad expanses of glass, and the museum is beautifully lit.

Nearly all of the exhibits are from the museum’s collection of over 200 artists, focused on art post-World War II. The collection belongs to Emily and Mitchell Rales. Read a great article about them here.

Ellsworth Kelly, Untitled, 2005
The home of Emily and Mitchell Rales on the property of Glenstone.
Roni Horn, Water Double v. 3, 2013-2105
Solid cast glass with as-cast surfaces
Two units, each 50 1/2” x 53-56-inch tapered diameter
photo from the Glenstone website

Though the window of the glass enclosed courtyard you can see one of the two Roni Horn Water Double pieces. They are perfectly placed in the room for when the natural light hits them. If you look into them they look as if they are filled with water. They weigh five tons each, and took a year to cool from firing.

Turbulent Series, 1998
2 gelatin silver prints, diptych
47”x 65 in , left panel framed
49 1/2 “ x 65 in right panel framed
photo from the Glenstone website

In a large room with high ceilings there were floor to ceiling screens facing each other. Sitting along the sides perpendicular to the screens, we watched this riveting 9:07 video installation by Iranian artist Shirin Neshat which I found on YouTube for you to watch. Obviously the format at the Glenstone was even more spectacular.

Michael Heizer, Compression Line, 1968/2016
A588 steel
75 x 10 x 9 1/2 feet

I have always wanted to see a Michael Heizer installation in person, and the Glenstone has two! I was not disappointed. Visitors are allowed to take photos of the Compression Line piece.

Michael Heizer, Collapse, 1967/2106
A588 stell
36 x 24 x 16 feet
photo from the Glenstone website

The second Heizer piece at Glenstone, is Collapse. Only three visitors were allowed in at a time. While it is outside, with limited viewing hours, the area is enclosed with walls sixteen feet tall, the same height as the depth of the piece itself. The setting was absolutely perfect. You are able to walk a careful distance around the piece with a gallery assistant, while another watches you closely. Nothing is allowed in your hands while walking around the installation.

Everyone is handed a brochure with a map of the property and pavilions, which includes a list of the art that is currently on view..

Cy Twombly room
photo from the Glenstone website
Cy Twombly, Cycnus, 1978
Wood, palm leaf and white paint
15 7/8” x 9 1/2” x 2 1/8 in
photo from the Glenstone website
Lynda Benglis, WING, 1970
Cast aluminum
67’ x 59 1/2 “ x 60 in
photo from the Glenstone website
Eva Hesse, Sans II, 1968
Fiberglass and polyester resin
38” x 86” x 6 1/2 in
photo from the Glenstone website
Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1962
Wedled Steele, canvas, wire and soot
63 1/2 x 111 x 20 in
photo from the Glenstone website

The first time I saw Lee Bontecou’s work was in 2004 At MOMA QNS in Long Island City. Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective spanned over forty years of her work, and it was one of those shows that has stuck with me, and I always enjoy seeing her work. The piece at the Glenstone was one of the best examples of Bontecou’s work I have seen.

Willem de Kooning, January 1st, 1956
Oil on canvas
78 1/4” x 69 in
photo from the Glenstone website
Yves Klein, Untitled Blue Sponge Relief (RE 21), 1960
Pigment, natural sponges, and pebbles on board
78 1/4” x 64 3/4 in
photo from the Glenstone website

As you all should know by now, I’m wild for Yves Klein blue, known as International Klein Blue. While I vastly prefer his sculptures, the blue draws me in every time.

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.693, Hanging Six-Lobed, Two-Part, Complex Form within a Form with One Suspended Sphere in the Top Lobe), c. 1956
Brass and iron wire
72 1/4” x 15” x 15 in
photo from the Glenstone website
Tony Smith, Smug, 1973/2005
Aluminum, painted black
11 x 78 x 64 feet
Richard Serra, Contour, 290, 2004

Besides Contour, there is another Serra piece on view at the property. Sylvester is a perfect example of why people should not touch art. You can walk inside the spiral of Sylvester and see the marks on the weatherproof steel where people have touched it. I truly hate when people touch art. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that to you all yet. I see it happen all the time, and not just on outdoor art. Don’t touch the art!

I spent three and a half hours at Glenstone, as I had a flight to catch, but it was not nearly enough time. I cannot wait to go back.

2 thoughts on “Glenstone in Potomac, MD

  1. Wonderful post. I felt like I was there with you and interesting to read about the rules for the museum — I see how that could make for a intimate experience to view and think about the art you are looking at. It must be a refreshing change from a typical museum experience.

  2. I had visited Glenstone in the spring of 2020. What a wonderful place. The Michael Heizer Collapse left me breathless. An extraordinary place. Thank you for this reminder and for your insights.

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