When walking through a museum, the goal is usually to get patrons to stare in wonder and awe at a variety of different pieces. After completing a two-year, $30 million renovation, Washington, D.C.'s Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum's craft and decorative arts program, will reopen its doors Nov. 13 with WONDER – an exhibition spaced throughout the entire museum.
Gabriel Dawe's Plexus A1, part of the new exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery — Photo courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum
"The idea for this exhibition came from wandering these galleries just after we took everything out of them," said Nicholas Bell, The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-In-Charge.
"It was in looking at these empty spaces that we realized the most valuable object we have at the museum is the building itself. So we hatched the idea to invite leading contemporary American artists to walk through these galleries with us and tell us what they would do if we gave them an entire space just for them."
Nine artists were chosen to create large-scale installations from everyday objects that you would normally overlook, but they've been transformed into amazing pieces of art.
Maya Lin uses green marbles to evoke the tides of the Chesapeake Bay while Chakaia Booker takes discarded rubber tires and creates a labyrinth. Inspired by a huge hemlock tree in the Cascade Mountains, John Grade recycled 500,000 pieces of reclaimed, old-growth cedar to create a replica of the tree based on plaster casts.
Color pops from floor to ceiling thanks to Gabriel Dawe's incorporation of thousands of polyester sewing thread strands arranged in a rainbow of different shades.
As a part of the new exhibit WONDER, see John Grade's Middle Fork — Photo courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum
"We want you to come to the museum and be reminded of why we need places like this in our culture," Bell said.
Located right across the street from the most famous address in the nation's capital, the gallery is the first structure in the United States to be built specifically for use as an art museum. In addition, this was the first time in 45 years that the building had undergone an extensive renovation. Patrons will notice a new contemporary look for public spaces, LED-lighting and infrastructure upgrades including energy-efficient technologies.
"In renovating it today, we are reaffirming the mission that is chiseled in stone above our door," Bell said. "It says 'Dedicated to Art' and that's a message and a mission for the American people."
To access the Renwick Gallery by Metro, take the Farragut West station.