National Building Museum
The Wall/El Muro: What Is A Border Wall?
Through November 2022
This exhibition examines the U.S./Mexico border wall from the perspective of architecture and design. By focusing on the built environment, visitors will understand that a border wall makes real — and internationally consequential — something otherwise intended to be symbolic. Addressing the myriad ways the architecture and landscape of security surround us the show challenges how we imagine America at its limits. The border is a place, but it also looms large as a symbol of both America’s vulnerability and state power. The show deploys photography, video, artifacts and immersive experiences to help illuminate the role of design, architecture, planning and engineering in the realm of national security and geopolitics. The exhibition situates the wall in the wider, international context of shifting border lines, the early construction of border fences, and old and new border walls throughout the world, encouraging audiences to engage in this international conversation.
National Museum of Asian Art
Prehistoric Spirals: Earthenware from Thailand
Opening Late December or Early January (TBD)
Red painted spirals swirl in distinct patterns across the surfaces of prehistoric vessels, testifying to the sophisticated material and aesthetic cultures of northeastern Thailand more than two thousand years ago. Their makers belonged to a loose network of settlements specializing in bronze and ceramic production. Tragically, the region has been heavily looted in recent history. The pots, once ritually buried in gravesites as objects of prestige and remembrance, were unearthed recklessly and stripped of their historical context. As a result, little is known about these vessels and the people who made them. Recent research into their materials, techniques and designs opens new lines of inquiry into the region’s heritage to helps celebrate Thailand’s profound cultural and material legacy.
American Art Museum
Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano
Through May 2022
For Sargent, Whistler, and many of their patrons, Venetian glassware was irresistibly beautiful, and collecting these exquisite vessels expressed respect for both history and innovation. By recreating their transatlantic journey — from the furnaces of Murano to American parlors and museums — this exhibition brings to life the Venetian glass revival of the late nineteenth century and the artistic experimentation the city inspired for visiting artists. It is the first comprehensive examination of American tourism, artmaking, and art collecting in Venice, revealing the glass furnaces and their new creative boom as a vibrant facet of the city’s allure.
Between 1860 and 1915, Murano glassmakers began specializing in delicate and complex hand-blown vessels, dazzling the world with brilliant colors and virtuoso sculptural flourishes. This glass revival coincided with a surge in Venice’s popularity as a destination for tourists, leading to frequent depictions of Italian glassmakers and glass objects by artists from abroad. Moreover, the inventions of Murano’s master glassmakers established Venice as a center for artistic experimentation. Sojourns in Venice were turning points for John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, and scores of artists who followed in their footsteps, often referencing the glass industry in their works. Featuring more than 140 objects, this exhibition presents a choice selection of glass vessels in conversation with artworks by the many talented American artists who found inspiration in Venice.
National Gallery of Art
James Van Der Zee’s Photographs: A Portrait of Harlem
Through May 2022
Photographer James Van Der Zee created an extraordinary chronicle of life in Harlem during the 1920s and 1930s and beyond. Residents of this majority Black neighborhood in New York City turned to Van Der Zee and his camera to mark special occasions. His carefully composed, cosmopolitan photographs conveyed the personalities, aspirations and spirit of his sitters. Some 40 works from the National Gallery’s collection feature Van Der Zee’s studio portraits, along with his photographs of Harlem nightclubs and storefronts as well as religious, social, political and athletic community groups. Together they provide a glimpse into Harlem’s rich social life as it became an influential center of American culture during the Harlem Renaissance.
Laurie Anderson: The Weather
Through July 2022
This is the largest-ever U.S. exhibition of artwork by groundbreaking multimedia artist, performer, musician and writer Laurie Anderson, which debuts more than a dozen new artworks, interspersed with select key works, from throughout her five-decade career. Guiding visitors through an immersive audiovisual experience, this dynamic exhibition showcases the artist’s boundless creative storytelling process, featuring her work in video, performance, installation, painting and other media. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of live performances by Anderson into July 2022.
As a Grammy Award-winning musician, performer, writer and artist, Anderson has an international reputation as an artist who combines the traditions of the avant-garde with popular culture. Her theatrical works combine a variety of media, including performance, music, poetry, sculpture and opera. She has also released seven albums for Warner Brothers, including Big Science, featuring the song “O Superman,” which rose to No. 2 on the British pop charts.
The Phillips Collection
Alma W. Thomas: Everything is Beautiful
Through January 23, 2022
Alma W. Thomas’s long, dynamic life (1891-1978) and multifaceted career was defined by constant creativity. This major retrospective traces her journey from semi-rural Georgia to Washington, D.C., to becoming the first Black woman given a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art at age 81. Through artworks and archival materials, this exhibition demonstrates how Thomas’s wide-reaching artistic practices extended far beyond her studio, shaping every facet of her life — from community service, to teaching, to gardening.
In 1907, Thomas and her family migrated from Columbus, Georgia, to D.C., and by 1924, she became the first art department graduate at Howard University. For 35 years and in a segregated city, she empowered art students at Shaw Junior High School to see beauty in the everyday and brought exhibition opportunities and cultural enrichment to Black youth.
Everything Is Beautiful contextualizes Thomas’s art and life within her creative community. Some of her works are placed alongside examples by her friends and contemporaries like Loïs Mailou Jones and Morris Louis who also helped shape the D.C. art scene. The exhibition offers an intimate look at this inspiring cultural icon who used her imagination and ingenuity to lead a rich and beautiful life.