Inside the Newly Reopened National Museum of Women in the Arts
Of all the DC museums, this institution is a must.
If anyone were to doubt that museums in Washington DC and its general art scene were booming, the last few years’ wealth of innovative exhibits, new museums, and a growing mural scene would prove them wrong. And in this theme of an embarrassment of artistic riches, the re-opening of the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the definitive cherry on top.
After a multi-year closure, on Saturday, October 21, the museum will re-open to the public, unveiling a top-to-bottom renovation of its home—a 1908 Classical Revival building in Downtown DC—a new curatorial vision, expanded gallery space, and a reaffirmed commitment to assert and advocate for the role of women and nonbinary artists in the larger cultural landscape.
Opened in 1987, the museum is the first in the world dedicated solely to women in the arts. And while its director, Susan Fisher Sterling, says “discourse has progressed” in the past 35 years when it comes to women, gender, and equity in the arts, these matters continue to be paramount issues, making the institution more important than ever as both a “museum and microphone,” she adds.
Displayed throughout three floors and a mezzanine, the museum’s collection is some 6,000 pieces strong with works spanning the 17th century to today. The renovations also include behind-the-scenes brand-new audio-visual, mechanical, and electric systems; features that make the building fully ADA compliant; a library and research center; and new performing arts hall.
For its grand reopening, the museum is showcasing four exhibitions: “The Sky’s the Limit,” with sculptural and hung installation works by 13 artists; “Making History,” a nine-piece brushwork show of works by the Chinese American artist, Hung Liu who passed away in 2021; “Impressive: Antoinette Bouzonnet-Stella,” which shines a light on 25 prints from the 17th-century French artist; and “Remix” the core of the museum’s permanent collection that will rotate periodically with a strong consideration for artists overlooked throughout history and now.
As an illuminating glimpse into the heart of the museum, “Remix” features pieces across centuries and mediums hung together as if in conversation, with works by heavy hitters like Frida Kahlo, Amy Sherald, Cindy Sherman, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois, and Berthe Morisot.
A shop with an eclectic collection of gifts and art books is open, and a cafe is set to launch in the future. The National Museum of Women in the Arts is free this weekend October 21–22 (10 am–5 pm) in honor of its opening. After the opening weekend, tickets will be $13 for DC residents and $16 for out of towners.