The National Museum of Women in the Arts was the first major gallery to exclusively exhibit women artists. Housed in a stunning Classical Revival–style building constructed in 1908, the pioneering institution stands six stories, with a collection that spans six continents and six centuries.
The museum, which showcases artists who have overcome gender inequality by breaking new ground, reopened on October 21 after a $67.5 million renovation. Visitors who toured the NMWA before it closed in August 2021 may remember artwork displayed in dark corridors and a lack of accessibility. Structural changes open the museum and make it not only more easily accessible physically, but also visually, with an intuitive flow through the exhibits.
The expanded galleries now display more contemporary artworks and larger installations. Look for immersive videos of artists at work and public spaces that accommodate live performances and hands-on workshops. The drama of the exquisite Great Hall remains, with its soaring rotunda, marble floors, and crystal chandelier.
There are intriguing stories about each artist. Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky depicts her wearing clothing from indigenous Mexican culture. It’s the only painting by Kahlo in Washington, DC. Georgia O’Keeffe’s Alligator Pears in a Basket is an unapologetic take on still life during the American modernism movement. Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses by Washington colorist Alma Woodsey Thomas is just one piece that helps illuminate why the audacious abstractionist broke through racial lines in the 1960s.
Beside these treasured holdings are exciting new installations, including the inaugural exhibit, The Sky’s the Limit. The imagination soars as visitors gaze upon Joana Vasconcelos’ Rubra, a chandelier made of Murano glass and crimson yarn; Mariah Robertson’s 9, a wall of flowing photographic paper; and Alison Saar’s ethereal sculpture Undone.
Remix: The Collection is a reinstallation of NMWA’s permanent collection arranged in thematic groupings, with artwork by Faith Ringgold, Amy Sherald, Lalla Essaydi, and others. “Our renewed and reimagined spaces will enhance our ability to share great works of art … and reach out to new audiences,” says NMWA director Susan Fisher Sterling. 1250 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC, $13–$16 for adults, free for 21 and under, nmwa.org
Feature image by Jennifer Hughes, courtesy National Museum of Women in the Arts