National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art East Building
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National Gallery of Art East Building

National Gallery of Art

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If you are someone who loves art then you should think of visiting Washington DC. The American capital features a large number of world-class art galleries and the National Gallery of Art is the most famous of them all.

The museum is positioned on the National Mall, in the middle of 3rd and 9th Streets, just within the Constitution Avenue NW. With over 4 million visitors a year, it is one of the world’s most popular premier museums.

It houses more than 140,000 exhibits depicting the history of Western art from the 13th century to the present time. The exhibits include unique pieces of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, drawings, prints, and photographs. The museum collects, preserves, and exhibits the works with the intent of fostering a deep understanding of works of art.


It was founded in 1937 by Andrew W. Mellon, an American financier, and Philanthropist. He donated his personal art collections and provided initial funding. Sadly, he died before the gallery opened.

During its first opening, the museum only had Mellon’s artworks comprising of 126 paintings and 26 sculptures. It is housed in two buildings that sit adjacent to each other-the East building and the West building.

The two structures are joined together by a spacious tunnel running under 4th Street and are very diverse in style. The classical-style West Building was designed by architect John Russell Pope and completed in 1940. It is made from pink Tennessee marble and is mainly dedicated to art pieces before the 20th century.

The East Building was opened in 1978 and has a modern style designed by architect I. M. Pei. It features dramatic geometric designs and houses collections of modern and contemporary art.

Currently, the museum complex comprises of three shops (one fully focused on children, and four cafes. It is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

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(Source: Flickr/ National Gallery of Art Walkway)

Permanent Collection and Galleries in the East and West Buildings

Today, the museum houses about 140, 000 artworks done by over 13, 000 artists from the 12th to the 20th century. These are unique collections of American and European paintings, sculptures, graphic works, and decorative arts. The pieces are organized sequentially based on their period and nation of origin.

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(Source: Flickr/ Art pieces, National Gallery of Art)

The Sculpture Galleries alone features over 900 pieces. Within the 19th-Century French Galleries, you will find pieces made by some of the most integral painters in history including Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, and Cézanne.

There are also numerous works by popular Italian, Dutch, and Spanish Renaissance painters. The museum also hosts several concerts, temporary exhibitions, guided tours, special events, lectures and talks, concerts, film screenings, gallery talks and educational courses for kids and families throughout the year.

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(Source: Flickr/ a sculpture, National Gallery of Art)

The National Gallery of Art Opening Hours and Directions

The museum is open to the public from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It only closes during Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free of charge.

The easiest way to reach the museum is via Metrorail or the DC Circulator. The nearest Metro stop is Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter on the Green/Yellow Lines. When you use the DC Circulator’s National Mall route, you will end up near the Gallery’s buildings and Sculpture Garden.

This is particularly useful if you want to continue exploring the National Mall afterward or even the National Museum of Natural History. There are also a good number of Metro bus stops nearby the museum.

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