The addition of 12,250 square feet in the renovated East Building of the National Gallery of Art provides some much-needed breathing room and offers gallery curators an innovative space to display new works.
The expansion is welcome given the high volume of visitors to the gallery and other popular Smithsonian museums. The modern design also includes a roof terrace, which is a popular feature in many other Constitution Avenue buildings with views of the Capitol and National Mall. But this roof also features several interesting sculptures from the museum’s collection.
Ahead of the East Building’s reopening on Friday, members of the media were able to tour the renovated wing on Tuesday.
Located at the corner of 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, the wing’s collection includes dozens of notable artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Barnett Newman was an American artist famous for his abstract expressionism. His collection “The Stations of the Cross,” painted from 1958 to 1966, is made up of 14 stark paintings. On canvas, he uses black, grey, white and a hint of orange to carry out a biblical reference by putting people in a room alone with the paintings. The individual stations are unidentifiable but they’re “meant to carry the urgency of Christ’s cry from the cross,” the museum explained.
Next to Newman’s collection is one from American painter Mark Rothko called “Untitled.” According to the museum, while Rothko wrote that he was not an abstractionist, he is commonly identified as an abstract expressionist. The gallery describes this collection, created in 1949, as including layers of different colors which “suggest both weight and weightlessness.”
The wing has an entire room dedicated to Alexander Calder, the American sculptor from the early 1900s known as the originator of mobile sculptures — pieces balanced or suspended so they move with a touch or from air movement. “Aztec Josephine Baker” was made of wire in 1929 and hangs suspended at about 53 inches long. From the way it is displayed in the Calder room, the sculpture creates shadows on the walls surrounding it.
The German sculptor Katharina Fritsch is famous for her royal blue “Hahn/Cock,” as she named it. The 14-foot sculpture stands on the Roof Terrace of the new wing looking over the buildings on Constitution Avenue. Fritsch originally created it in 2010 to exhibit in London’s Trafalgar Square as part of a changing display of contemporary sculptures. It stood there from July 2013 until January 2015. Fritsch, 60, currently lives in Dusseldorf, Germany.
To access the wing’s new third tower, attendees are invited up a spiral staircase and enter into the Barbara Kruger exhibit, “In the Tower.” The exhibit will stand through Jan. 22, 2017. Kruger is an American conceptual artist who works with photographic images of faces or figures, layers with phrases involving personal pronouns. “The openness allows viewers to identify differently with Kruger’s works,” the gallery stated. Kruger, 71, currently lives in New York and Los Angeles.
Alberto Giacometti’s “City Square” stands in the center of one room in the new wing, made up of five human figures. Giacometti, a Swiss sculptor, painter and printmaker, created this art in 1948 and 1949. The five humans and the base they stand on is made of bronze.