I was lucky enough to visit the Smithsonian's American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery on Friday afternoon, following a college visit trip to American University with my 17 year old son. We were going to visit the exhibit, 1934: A New Deal for Artists. The exhibit features the paintings commissioned by Franklin Roosevelt when he created the Public Works Art Program in 1934. Artists from all of the United States were asked to create art that depicted the "American Scene" in hopes of uplifting the spirit of Americans during the great depression. It is a wonderful exhibit, and worth the trip to catch a glimpse of life in the 1930's!
We had a little extra time, and decided to venture over to the Portrait gallery which is in another wing of the museum. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Shepard Fairey's poster of Barak Obama is now on display at the museum! That poster is so ingrained in everyone's mind as the iconic image of the 2008 election. It is AMAZING to see the original, which is actually the screen print on an ornately collaged background.
Here is a link to hear Mr. Fairey discussing his poster at the Gallery. It is pretty interesting to hear him speak about the process of making this piece of art!
There are tons of other wonderful portraits and photographs - everything from Abraham Lincoln to Andy Warhol! Speaking of Lincoln, there is also a wonderful exhibit, One Life: The Mask of Lincoln. It features many photographs, as well as two "life masks" made of President Lincoln. I was taken aback at how big of a man that he must have been!
If you are in the DC area, you should definitely put this museum on your list to visit! It is at 8th and F Street, NW - so you have to travel a little further away from all the main Smithsonian museums. It is right across the street from the INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM, which I will be heading back to DC in a couple of weeks with my 12 year old. I hope that I can sneak back in to the Portrait Gallery to look at the Fairey poster again!
Also, if you go, you should definitely check out the website before you go. You can now download the audio tour onto your MP3 player. So, you don't have to rent the earphones anymore (am I dating myself...it has been a couple of years since I have been to the museum!)