When writing about museums, we assume that you enjoy, appreciate or at least accept contemporary art. But actually it’s not always the case… If you never connected with contemporary art, but are open to the idea – visit the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC! Anyone who admires contemporary art will love the museum as well as anyone, who only embarks on a journey of studying it. The Hirshhorn Museum does not push you into contemporary art, the museum merely shows the way. And you don’t have to pay for taking this road – the admission is free (it is prepaid through federal taxes, so it is basically a US present to the world). The Hirshhorn is located on the National Mall, a place you will definitely pass by when strolling through Smithsonian museums.

Congress made plans for a Washington DC contemporary art museum in 1930s, but managed to come back to the pre-war plans only in 1960s. That’s when the Hirshhorn Museum’s founding donor, Joseph H. Hirshhorn – financier, philanthropist, and well-known collector of modern art, who immigrated to New York from Latvia – gifted the nation with nearly 6,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and mixed media pieces. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, envisioned by a Pritzker Prize-winning architect Gordon Bunshaft, has been open to the public since October 4, 1974.

Photo: Lee Stalsworth
Photo: Lee Stalsworth

The museum itself is noteworthy – impressive and easy to navigate building with a great collection of roughly 12,000 artworks includes pieces by leading artists from the late 19th century to the present day. When you get to the top floor, you can admire the view of the National Mall and relax in comfy couches with plug-ins and Wi-Fi. If the weather is right we suggest going out to the Sculpture Garden. It is a hidden gem of DC. There you can sit in the courtyard among the sculptures by Auguste Rodin, David Smith, Henry Moore, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Yoko Ono and many others. Bring lunch or just relax admiring the views and art. A great advantage of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden is that it is rarely crowded and when in DC, you know how much you miss peace and quiet. Crowds on the National Mall, queues to the Congress, excursion buses all over, traffic and construction can be overwhelming. The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden is an oasis, where the massive building serves as a buffer between you and the hustle and bustle of the city.

If you are planning DC in April, you will whiteness the fantastic cherry blossom. Trees make the sculptures look even more ethereal and inspire you to meditate and think of universally important questions that you might’ve wondered about in the Congress or by the Watergate. The Garden is appeasing in any season, but we especially love it in April, when it is exceptionally beautiful and late summer – early autumn, when the museum shows movies on the side of the building and hosts Monday night happy hour, so you can have a drink in the garden and admire sculptures while listening to a live band.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden accumulated fantastic pieces by contemporary artists, but it is not that large to make a day trip out of it. You can take it as a perfect chill-pill when trying to see everything DC has to offer. The museum is open 10 am – 5:30 pm and the Garden opens at 7:30 am and stays open until dusk, it is one of a very few places that open before 10 am in DC, adding another advantage for early birds!