Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

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7th Street and Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC, USA
www.hirshorn.si.edu - 202-633-1000

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington Reviews

spocklogic spocklog…
325 reviews
Modern Museum Near the National Mall Aug 13, 2015
Construction began in 1972 and opened to the public in 1974. The museum & sculpture garden is named after Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899-1981) who was a financial broker & analyst, entrepreneur and passionate art collector who "bought from feeling, not from calculation". Over time his eccentric collection grew into proportions of, well, museum sized. In the 1960's, Hirshhorn donated his collection with the condition that the US government build and maintain a museum that would bear his name. At that time, Hirshhorn's collection of sculptures & paintings was one of the largest privately held in the world. Hirshhorn also made it clear that further donations would follow, and he contributed a million dollars toward the effort and completion of the museum project.

The museum building is a massive concrete cylinder 231 feet in diameter, supported by 4 columns rising 14 feet, allowing visitors to stroll around in a plaza below the structure and view the hollowed circular center and sky above. There is also a fountain in the center of the plaza to accentuate the focal point of the plaza space. The entrance floor is enclosed in glass with escalators and elevators providing access to two floors above, which house the galleries and permanent collection. One floor below the lobby is a gallery for changing exhibitions, along with a 280-seat auditorium, museum shop, conservation laboratories, workshops, sculpture storage, and other service areas such as restrooms. The top floor is reserved for administrative offices, paintings storage, and research facilities.

The sculpture garden surrounding the museum is a landscaped open-air gallery designed for contemplation. It consists of a sunken garden in a fairly neutral setting to emphasize attention to the sculptures themselves, but with well manicured lawns and intimate spaces to enjoy. It has an overall calming effect with addition of beech trees, pines and crepe myrtles. Some of the barrier walls are covered with clematis and ivy. The sculptures are meant to be exhibited on a rotating basis, so the landscaping itself is not intentionally designed around any of the individual pieces. The gardens have been redesigned a couple of times, once in 1979 and again in 1991.

The whole place (museum and garden) is almost 5 acres in size and many of the sculpture pieces originally adorned Hirshhorn's 22 acre estate in Connecticut. There are around 60 pieces on the garden grounds to enjoy the year round. There are many more pieces inside the museum itself in the permanent collections on the two floors above the lobby. In total, it's a curious collection for sure, but an enjoyable one and rather unique I think in variety of the pieces. Perhaps Hirshhorn himself described it best when discussing his art purchases: "This is my money and my taste. I've operated that way all my life - in my life and my business. I like to test my own judgment. I don't care if my grandfather or my friends like it." It's not a stagnant place either and pieces do move around, new ones are added occasionally, and visiting exhibits always provide something different.
Hirshhorn Museum
Hirshhorn Museum
Hirshhorn Museum with visiting exh…
Alexander Calder Stabile
10 / 10 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
spocklogic says:
I would agree and this museum seems to have remained true to the spirit of the original collection and Hirshhorn's attitude in adding new pieces
Posted on: Oct 31, 2016
vances says:
Appreciate Hirshhorn's approach to art collecting...my opinion is all too often "more money than brains", lol.
Posted on: Oct 29, 2016
spocklogic says:
Bill (Zagnut66) & Harriet (Africancrab) wrote good reviews on this place too. I tried to provide some additional info to add to that and took a lot of photos of the art & plaques describing the art. Good to hear my review was informative and the additional information helpful. My pleasure to promote this museum a bit.
Posted on: Oct 29, 2016
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Zagnut66 Zagnut66
112 reviews
Donut on the Mall Aug 01, 2013
The Hirshhorn Museum is the giant cement donut next to the more popular Air and Space Museum on the National Mall. It's hard to get lost in this museum since each floor is one long circular corridor that eventually brings you back to your starting point. This is the Smithsonian museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, which can also be found at the National Gallery's East Building across the Mall and the Phillip's Collection in Dupont Circle. I like this stuff, but it leaves a lot of folks scratching their heads.

There has been much controversy over the direction the Hirshhorn has taken under the stewardship of recently departed head Richard Koshalek, who proposed a giant blue inflatable bubble to cover the center hole and allow exhibits on the plaza where the fountain sits. The museum has not added physical space since it's opening in the 70s, the size of its collection now far greater than the available space to show it. The idea was shot down, Koshalek left, and several board members resigned in protest over what they saw as a lack of vision. There were also plans to tinker with the sculpture garden, which is often strangely empty of people considering the thousands who pass by it every day.

Despite the controversies, the Hirshhorn puts on some unique and fascinating exhibits, such as its recent show on the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. The Black Box Theater on the basement level shows short films that are nothing like what you will see at the cinema. There is no cafe on site, but there are some two dozen food trucks lined up just a block away. The only bathrooms are down in the basement, so be forewarned.
The Hirshhorn as it faces the Nati…
Hirshhorn plaza
Time to see some art
This is the kind of stuff the Hirs…
9 / 9 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
spocklogic says:
I had a chance to stop by here while in DC a couple years ago. I didn't have too much time to explore it, but saw enough to see it's well worth a visit. A bit of an undiscovered gem on the DC tourist trail I would say!
Posted on: Aug 03, 2013
vulindlela says:
Posted on: Aug 02, 2013
halilee says:
Congrats on your featured review! :)
Posted on: Aug 02, 2013
Africancrab Africanc…
777 reviews
Outstanding Modern Art Museum Jun 27, 2012
I think it was the giant black sculpture outside of the museum that caught my attention. I visited the museum with my family a week ago after meeting Andy for lunch. The sculpture garden drew me like a magnet to metal. It reminded me of the Pompidou in Paris. Now, I must say the art here is not for everyone. Someone might find it boring, while another may not understand what they are seeing. Keep an open mind should you decide to visit it. I particularly recommend the sculpture garden; the cylindrical architecture of the museum has a center fountain around which are giant iron sculptures open to interpretation.

To understand art of this nature, one must appreciate art in different forms. My husband for instance did not understand why I wanted to visit this museum. It has art of acquired taste, so read more about it before you go. The intrigue is the amazing collection of International, Modern and Contemporary art collection at the museum. It opened in 1974 and was named after its most generous donor Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Mr. Hirshhorn donated over six thousand sculptures and paintings to the Smithsonian institute.

PS: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and S…
Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and S…
"Last Conversation Piece" (1994-19…
Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and S…
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
Africancrab says:
David, I'm glad you took time to read my scribbles. I did like and appreciated the museum. I was surprised I did not find any reviews on it on TB. Brian, you are right, it seems it is not a very popular museum in DC
Posted on: Jul 21, 2012
spocklogic says:
It is indeed the Alexander Calder stabile right on the street that first draws you in, but it's definitely worth a stroll inside the sculpture garden to see the other pieces here. Good review in bringing attention to a not so well known museum in DC.
Posted on: Jul 21, 2012
davidx says:
Fro your account I thought I should be bemused by this place and probably dislike it - and I think it was an act of masochism when I started to look at the photos. However to my surprise I like it very much.
Posted on: Jul 21, 2012

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