The gallery houses the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House. I had been several times before, but wanted to see the Obama portraits. Along with the presidential portrait galleries, the museum always features a special exhibition, along with some stunning portraits by some of my favorite artists, including Alice Neel.
Admission is free at The National Portrait Gallery, and all Smithsonian museums in D.C.
There was an extraordinary range of beautiful presidential portraits in the gallery, but the low light made it hard to do them justice in photographs. I loved the Elaine de Kooning portrait of JFK (shown above), and I apologize for my terrible photo. While most people have likely seen the Obama portraits, with all the media surrounding them, I found them significantly more spectacular in person. There was a lovely portrait of George W. Bush as well. You can browse the collection on the museum’s website.
The rectangular-shaped building had multiple levels. At the top of the staircase was this ornately framed portrait of the four female justices.
Michelle Obama’s portrait was roped off in a gallery with other portraits, including a few I’m showing below. Since the lighting was really tricky, my photo is completely off in color. You can compare to the gallery’s version here.
Connected to the National Portrait Gallery is the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), which is dedicated to American Art, the nation’s first collection.
Nam June Paik’s Electronic Superhighway illustrates his interpretation of a diverse nation through technology. The installation is constructed of 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3750 feet of cable and 5757 feet of multicolored neon tubing. Each state has a video clip representing Paik’s understanding of it. Above is the Kansas part, which Paik represents through the Wizard of Oz. Having grown up there, it was one of my favorites.