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Autumn Art Highlights: Washington DC

4 September 2015

Some of the best exhibitions and events coming up in Washington DC
More highlights | New York | Los Angeles | Paris | Berlin | London

Although art-obsessed New Yorkers know for certain they live in the best art city on the east coast – some would say the world – there is always a good reason for them to slip down to Washington to catch a show. This autumn is no exception.

The Phillips Collection
‘Gauguin to Picasso, Masterworks from Switzerland. The Staechelin & Im Obersteg Collections’
(10 October 2015–10 January 2016)

The season’s must-see exhibition is at the Phillips Collection where – as if their permanent galleries were not delicious enough – their curatorial team has landed a coup. ‘Gauguin to Picasso, Masterworks from Switzerland. The Staechelin & Im Obersteg Collections’ comprises more than 60 paintings visiting the US as a group for the first time. Rudolf Staechelin (1881–1946) and Karl Im Obersteg (1883–1969) were successful industrialists and businessmen, serious collectors, and friends. They were both pioneering supporters of modernism, and bought such masterpieces as Gauguin’s Nafea faa ipoipo (When will you Marry?) of 1892 and equally significant pictures by Van Gogh, Chagall, Jawlensky, Kandinsky and Picasso.

National Gallery of Art
‘The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L.’
(4 October 2015–7 February 2016)
‘Celebrating Photography at the National Gallery of Art: Recent Gifts’
(1 November 2015-27 March 2016)

The two most interesting shows at the National Gallery, which is famous for its historic pictures, might surprise those who have yet to dig deeper into their collection. ‘The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L.’ is about the Los Angeles print workshop and publisher who over the past five decades has worked closely with artists and inspired them to test new mediums. The 17 series in the show are by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra and others. The other show worth seeing is ‘Celebrating Photography at the National Gallery of Art: Recent Gifts’. The gallery only started assembling photography 25 years ago but they have done so with gusto and built a globally and historically rich collection. This show has treats from all periods.

Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries
‘Sōtatsu: Making Waves’
24 October 2015–31 January 2016

At the Smithsonian, several of whose 19 museums are strung along the National Mall, the Freer Sackler brings us the first dedicated examination of the influential yet elusive 17th-century Japanese painter and designer Tawaraya Sōtatsu. In ‘Sōtatsu: Making Waves’, more than 70 of his works are gathered from around the world, plus pieces by later artists he influenced.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery
‘Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection’ 
30 October 2015–3 April 2016

Behind the nearby White House lies the American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, another branch of the Smithsonian. In ‘Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection’, American artists Lichtenstein and Calder stand alongside Picasso and Miro in what curator Virginia Mecklenburg calls a ‘river of intellectual and artistic commerce that flowed both ways between America and Europe’.

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