The Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery Reopens

The Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC, reopened to the public on November 13, 2015 following a comprehensive two-year renovation. The Renwick is home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of contemporary craft and decorative art, one of the finest and most extensive collections of its kind. The museum is housed in a National Historic Landmark, the first structure built expressly as an art museum in the United States, and is named in honor of its architect, James Renwick, Jr. It has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1972, exhibiting works by artists who emphasize craft as an approach to living differently in the modern world. The restoration team painstakingly preserved the unique historic features of the building while upgrading it for the 21st century. The new gallery spaces feature an updated interior aesthetic, state-of-the-art infrastructure, new LED lighting and drastically improved energy efficiency.

In contrast to the renovation of the Smithsoninan’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, which reopened last December with a renewed focus on the permanent collection and interactive technology, the Renwick’s opening salvo is entirely dedicated to a special exhibition. Titled Wonder, the show features site-specific installations by nine major contemporary artists, transforming the museum into an immersive work of art. The exhibition is organized by Nicholas R. Bell, The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge of the Renwick Gallery.

The nine artists featured in Wonder created strikingly different works connected by their interest in crafting large-scale, awe-inspiring installations from the process, labor, and materials grounded in our everyday world. “The concept of ‘wonder’— that moment of astonishment in the face of something new and unknown that transports us out of the everyday—is deeply intertwined with how we experience art,” said Bell. As the father of young children, Bell is intimately familiar with the expression of pure wonder. As a leading curator of the contemporary craft movement, his nuanced exhibition has drawn rave reviews and extraordinary crowds.

Maya Lin’s Folding the Chesapeake is a particularly impressive installation of 54,000 glass marbles running across a gallery floor and up its walls. Embodying the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Lin’s contribution bridges the gap between the creativity and beauty of contemporary art and the need to draw attention to a majestic and endangered resource. Both the natural grandeur of the Chesapeake and Lin’s intricate and expansive work inspired by it stoke our collective sense of wonder.

Wonder closes in stages between May 5 and July 10, 2016, after which a portion of the permanent collection will be installed upstairs with the Renwick’s biennial on the ground floor.

UPCOMING EVENTS

SAVE THE DATE
  • Spring Symposium  New Orleans, April, 2018
  • Sweden & Denmark May/June 2018
  • Fall Symposium Upper Hudson River Valley, September 2018
  • Fall Study Trip Abroad Vienna, Prague & Budapest, October 2018

The Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC, reopened to the public on November 13 following a comprehensive two-year renovation. The Renwick is home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of contemporary craft and decorative art, one of the finest and most extensive collections of its kind. The museum is housed in a National Historic Landmark, the first structure built expressly as an art museum in the United States, and is named in honor of its architect, James Renwick, Jr. It has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1972, exhibiting works by artists who emphasize craft as an approach to living differently in the modern world. The restoration team painstakingly preserved the unique historic features of the building while upgrading it for the 21st century. The new gallery spaces feature an updated interior aesthetic, state-of-the-art infrastructure, new LED lighting and drastically improved energy efficiency.

In contrast to the renovation of the Smithsoninan’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, which reopened last December with a renewed focus on the permanent collection and interactive technology, the Renwick’s opening salvo is entirely dedicated to a special exhibition. Titled Wonder, the show features site-specific installations by nine major contemporary artists, transforming the museum into an immersive work of art. The exhibition is organized by Nicholas R. Bell, The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge of the Renwick Gallery.

The nine artists featured in Wonder created strikingly different works connected by their interest in crafting large-scale, awe-inspiring installations from the process, labor, and materials grounded in our everyday world. “The concept of ‘wonder’— that moment of astonishment in the face of something new and unknown that transports us out of the everyday—is deeply intertwined with how we experience art,” said Bell. As the father of young children, Bell is intimately familiar with the expression of pure wonder. As a leading curator of the contemporary craft movement, his nuanced exhibition has drawn rave reviews and extraordinary crowds.

Maya Lin’s Folding the Chesapeake is a particularly impressive installation of 54,000 glass marbles running across a gallery floor and up its walls. Embodying the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Lin’s contribution bridges the gap between the creativity and beauty of contemporary art and the need to draw attention to a majestic and endangered resource. Both the natural grandeur of the Chesapeake and Lin’s intricate and expansive work inspired by it stoke our collective sense of wonder.

Wonder closes in stages between May 5 and July 10, 2016, after which a portion of the permanent collection will be installed upstairs with the Renwick’s biennial on the ground floor.

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