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Visitors at the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall - Free art museum in Washington, DC

15+ Museum Exhibits to Check Out This Fall in Washington, DC

The District’s museums offer a great lineup of exhibits and cultural experiences throughout the fall.

Arts and culture reign each fall in Washington, DC, as both theaters and museums debut new attractions. Below, we’ve gathered some of the most intriguing exhibits and displays to be found at DC’s museums throughout the season. Don't forget: many of DC's museums can be visited for free.

Welcome Home: A Portrait of East Baltimore, 1975-1980 – Through Jan. 17, 2022
As part of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, three women photographers – Elinor Cahn, Joan Clark Netherwood and Linda Rich – captured East Baltimore for a five-year stretch from 1975 to 1980. In this exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, you can view the stunning work of the photographers in all its glorious detail, as the trio captured celebrations, luncheons, homes, businesses and the everyday strife that members of the community faced.
Wednesday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands – Through Jan. 17, 2022
For the first time, a museum focuses on the portraiture work of visionary Chinese American artist Hung Liu in this new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Portraits of Promised Lands is also the artist's first on the East Coast. The exhibit is in memoriam of Liu, who tragically passed away earlier this year. Her multilayered paintings, often sourced from photographs, are a feast for the eyes and mind.
Wednesday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

‘Girlhood (It’s Complicated)’ – Ongoing
The National Museum of American History crafted this 5,000-square-foot gallery that tells the amazing and extremely complicated story of growing up female in America. The exhibit is comprised of five story sections that cover a range of experiences and how the definition of “girlhood” has changed over time in the U.S. From Helen Keller to Naomi Wadler, Girlhood showcases the strength of females through interactive stories and custom murals and illustrations by artist Krystal Quiles.
Friday – Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 1300 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560

 

'Sports: Leveling the Playing Field' – Ongoing
This exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture dives deep into the incredible contributions that African Americans have made to the realm of sports, both on and off the field, in a constant struggle for equality and recognition. The baseball portion of the exhibit highlights the accomplishments and appeal of Negro Leagues Baseball, as well as the biggest African American stars of the sport, complete with a statue of Jackie Robinson. The amazing accomplishments of Black Olympians, including Muhammad Ali, are also covered. Recently, the exhibit added Kobe Bryant’s #24 Lakers jersey from the 2008 NBA Finals in honor of the icon, a display that can be found in the basketball room.
Wednesday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free timed passesSafety guidelines
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 1400 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560

 

The Towers of the WTC: 51 Years of Photographs by Camilo José Vergara – Through March 6, 2022
Dedicated to “those who perished, those who responded and those who are rebuilding after September 11, 2001,” this new exhibit at the National Building Museum will feature stunning photographs by Camilo José Vergara, chronicling the five-decade story of the World Trade Center, including its construction, tragic demise and the rebuilding of the site and surrounding area. The visual retrospective will serve not just as a reflection on the Twin Towers, but the evolution and transformation of New York City itself.
Friday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. |  Tickets & safety guidelines
National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

 

Laurie Anderson: The Weather – Through July 31, 2022
You're likely familiar with Laurie Anderson and her influence without even knowing it. One of the most groundbreaking artists of the 20th century has used a range of media, including live performance, video, music and writing, to address American identity and technology and the effect of both on human relationships. This new exhibit at the Hirshhorn will debut more than 10 new artworks, interspersed with essential Anderson creations from throughout her career. The immersive audiovisual experience will be complimented by a series of live shows by Anderson from January through July of 2022.
Wednesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue & 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20560
 

Make Good The Promises: Reclaiming Reconstruction and its Legacies – Through Aug. 31, 2022
Step into the National Museum of African American History and Culture's new 4,300-square-foot exhibition that explores the Reconstruction era through an African American lens. Make Good The Promises features 175 objects, 200 photographs, 15 audio, video and interactive programs, as well as a companion book. The exhibition explores the deep divisions and clashing visions about how to rebuild the United States after slavery and the end of the Civil War. It connects that era to efforts in 2021 to make good on the promises of the Constitution.
Wednesday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free timed passes |  Safety guidelines
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 1400 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560

 

Life of a Neuron – Through Nov. 28
This new exhibit at ARTECHOUSE will take you through the thinking cells of the brain, diving into one of the world's greatest mysteries. Artists and scientists collaborated on this fascinating experience that will showcase how the brain shapes our experiences. Thanks to the Society for Neuroscience, ARTECHOUSE allows you to see a neuron from pre-birth to death, allowing for an immersive journey to the center of the mind. Book a discounted trip through the museum at the link for 'Tickets' below.
Monday – Thursday: 12-8 p.m. |  Friday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. |  Tickets
Safety guidelines
ARTECHOUSE, 1238 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

 

Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano – Through May 8, 2022
Discover Venice’s rich history as a glassmaking capital and its influence on early 20th century art with this retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The first comprehensive look at the American Grand Tour to Venice in the late 19th century features works by seminal artists such as John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler and many, more all of which convey how glassmakers in Murano inspired new ventures and styles in American painting.
Wednesday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

Intersections: Sanford Biggers – Oct. 16 – Jan. 9, 2022
Innovative artist Sanford Biggers, who uses video, film, installation, sculpture, drawing, music and more to create stunning merged works, brings his talents to The Phillips Collection for this two-part project in the museum’s Intersections series. Biggers will use items from the Collection, including Gee’s Bend quilts from an insulated Black community in Alabama and sculptural works, to create both a site-specific floor installation and a hybrid figure in marble.
Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. |  Tickets & safety guidelines
The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW, Washington, DC

 

David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History – Oct. 16 – Jan. 9, 2022
Along with fellow Howard University graduate Alma Thomas, David Driskell showed that the art of Black people is essential to the story of American art. In this new exhibition at The Phillips Collection, which marks the first comprehensive look at Driskell’s collages, paintings, drawings and prints, you can observe more than 50 works and marvel at the legacy of this titanic figure who also worked as a curator, teacher and writer. Driskell’s connection to American history and the African diaspora make for timeless pieces that will strongly resonate in 2021.
Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. |  Tickets & safety guidelines
The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW, Washington, DC

 

New Glass Now – Oct. 22 – March 6, 2022
The Renwick Gallery showcases the creativity and dexterity of architects, artists and designers who work in one of the world’s most challenging materials: glass. New Glass Now will consist of objects, videos, installations and performances from 50 different artists in 23 countries, allowing visitors to marvel at the tremendous skill of contemporary glass-making.
Wednesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
Renwick Gallery, Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006

 

Aquatint: From Its Origins to Goya – Oct. 24 – Feb. 21, 2022
More than 100 exceptional examples of the aquatint technique recently acquired by the National Gallery of Art constitute the first American exhibition to highlight the medium's development across Europe. The artistic range of aquatint led to striking images, including tombs, volcanoes,  moonlit vistas and caricatures, from French, British, Italian, German, Dutch and Spanish printmakers in the 18th century. 
Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
National Gallery of Art, 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC

 

Alma W. Thomas: Everything is Beautiful – Oct. 30 – Jan. 23, 2022
The highly anticipated exhibit that serves as the inspiration for a months-long celebration of Thomas will provide a fresh perspective on the artist’s life and multifaceted career. Everything is Beautiful will trace her trek from Georgia to DC and beyond through artworks and archival assets, showcasing the artist’s wide-reaching influence, dynamic artistic practices, intriguing interest in puppetry and much, much more. Note that on Jan. 20, 2022, The Phillips Collection will host a staged reading of a one-act play on Thomas’ life by local playwright Caleen Jennings.
Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. |  Tickets & safety guidelines
The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW, Washington, DC

 

The New Woman Behind the Camera – Oct. 31 – Jan. 30, 2022
This fall, the National Gallery of Art displays breathtaking photographs from more than 120 women photographers around the world. These "new women" embraced the art form as a mode of personal and professional expression and in the process, rewrote the rules of modern photography. See unflinching and beautiful images from these trailblazers who embodied a creative and confident spirit and whose work showed unique new perspectives from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
National Gallery of Art, 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC

 

The Wall/El Muro: What Is a Border Wall? – Opens Nov. 6
The National Building Museum will examine the concept of a border wall through the perspective of architecture and design in this new exhibit. The ways in which the built environment and the landscape of security challenge us and our notion of America will be central themes. Photography, video, artifacts and an immersive design will reveal to visitors the role of design and engineering in the realm of national security and geopolitics.
Friday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. |  Tickets & safety guidelines
National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

 

Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women – Nov. 18 – April 16, 2023
The Smithsonian American Art Museum will showcase how masterful women artists have subverted one of our most essential materials, fiber, since the dawn of the 20th century. In total, the 34 pieces in the exhibit comprise an alternative history of American art, with cloth, threads and yarn revealed to be artistic tools as effective as a pencil or paint brush. You will encounter art that is personal, multigenerational, intricate and groundbreaking.
Wednesday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free admission |  Safety guidelines
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

FUTURES – Nov. 20 – July 6, 2022
Smithsonian's historic Arts and Industries Building will open its groundbreaking new experience on Saturday, Nov. 20.  On view through July 6, 2022, FUTURES is the Smithsonian’s first major building-wide exploration of the future and will temporarily reopen the Smithsonian’s oldest museum for the first time in nearly two decades. The part-exhibition, part-festival will celebrate the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary with more than 150 awe-inspiring objects, ideas, prototypes and installations that fuse art, technology, design and history to help visitors imagine many possible futures on the horizon. The celebration officially kicks off with FUTURES Remixed, a free opening festival spanning the month of November and culminating in a free public concert on Nov. 20. The event will invite people of all ages to experience a radically imagined future when those of diverse perspectives come together to learn, problem solve and create.
Free admission |  More details
Arts and Industries Building, 900 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington, DC 20560

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