The National Gallery of Art (NGA) reopened its East Building Galleries on Sept. 30 after three years of reconstruction. People were still arriving late into the afternoon to see the building and works of art.
“I think I can speak for all of us and say that we loved the Calder room,” said Tracy Kroloff of Washington who came to the reopening in the afternoon with her two kids, Max and Nina.
“And the blue rooster and ‘Objectivity,’” the kids quickly chimed in.
The Alexander Calder exhibit, located on the ground level of the East Building, consists of various wire-like sculptures, many of which resembled animals like fish and elephants. While some were displayed on platforms throughout the room, others hung from the ceiling like mobiles.
Connected by a small foyer to the Calder exhibit was the Roof Terrace. Visitors are able to go outside and get a view of Pennsylvania Avenue. From one side, flags on the Canadian Embassy can be seen, while the other side boasts a view of the Capitol Building.
One view, however, that cannot be missed on the Roof Terrace is a blue rooster, standing 14.5 feet tall. The sculpture, more formally known as Hahn/Cock, was created by Katharina Fritsch in 2013. It has been perched on the roof since mid-July, but the public was first able to get a glimpse of it at the reopening. Hahn/Cock is on long-term loan from the Glenstone Museum in Potomac.
In addition to the Calder exhibit and the Roof Terrace, the East Building has various other works of art on its five levels. On the concourse level, the “Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery 1959-1971” also opened on Friday. It featured about 100 works originally seen in galleries headed by Virginia Dwan from both her Los Angeles and New York studios.
To Andrew Hillocks of Silver Spring, Spiral Jetty (1970) by Robert Smithson, was one of the most inspiring pieces he had seen so far on Friday afternoon.
“I really liked it because it was made with natural materials — I want to see it,” Hillocks said. “I also really liked the car with music playing.”
Back Seat Dodge ‘38 (1964) by Edward Kienholz was a sculpture strategically placed as a transition between Dwan’s Los Angeles and New York galleries. In the dimly lit room, the sculpture car sits with headlights on and a simple tune playing from the car radio.
The incorporation of music with the sculpture stuck with Hillocks because he himself is a musician, who also teaches and produces a variety of music. Art and music coexist in his work, the art usually being the visual component to instrumentals on his website.
The exhibits in the East Building of the NGA were inspiring, thought-provoking and entertaining. Many galleries have light colored walls and high ceilings. The rooms and much of the artwork on the walls were simplistic yet sophisticated.
The architecture of the newly renovated building was worth noting. Spiral and winding staircases take visitors to the various levels of the NGA, but elevators are also accessible, and some are artistic in their own way.
One of the ways the “In the Tower” gallery by Barbara Kruger was accessible was via a spiral staircase. At the top, visitors could see the main piece in the gallery that covered the entire wall, ceiling to floor. It resembled a magazine cover and contained quotes relating to how people perceived themselves, life, and the world.
The East Building houses modern art, but the building itself gives off a contemporary look. Even the underground connection between the East and West Buildings is artistic. The moving walkway is unlike any other that might be seen in an airport. Its surroundings have a similar look to Chicago O’Hare’s Neon Light Tunnel, but instead the colors used on the smaller NGA scale are black and white.
The galleries on the five levels of the East Building offer a fresh look with no two looking exactly alike. Each gallery feels open, but certainly not empty.
In a press release from Sept. 7, the NGA announced the reconstruction added 12, 250 square feet, which increased the number of works on display from 350 to 500. Don’t let that number be overwhelming. A thorough visit just to the East Building would probably take more than a couple of hours, but admission to the NGA is free and it’s open seven days a week. It’s easy to return and continue to marvel at the works on display.
The reopening of the East Building this year coincides with the 75th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art.
Featured Photo Credit: This spiral staircase leads up to the “In the Tower” exhibit in the newly renovated East Building at the National Gallery of Art (Talia Dennis/Bloc Reporter).
Talia Dennis is a freshman multiplatform journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.