The Remarkable Renwick

If you remember the Renwick Gallery as looking like the picture above, it’s time for a trip to Washington, DC.  On the outside the Renwick looks the same as ever, but inside it has been transformed.

James Renwick designed the building, and it opened as America’s 1st structure intended to be an art museum in 1858.  Renwick was a top 19th century architect.  Among his designs is New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  The Renwick is no longer a museum of wall-covering 19th century paintings.  It’s now one of the not-on-the-mall Smithsonian institutions and even more dedicated than before to exhibiting excellent, contemporary American craft objects.  It’s still slightly northwest of the White House at 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue.  As a result of this mission, it has, in my opinion, the best gift store among the Smithsonian’s 19 venues with lots of artisan-made items for sale.  The only thing I remember seeing on previous visits is the over decorated flying fish in the gift store that Ruth still wants to buy.

I liked almost everything on view when we were there recently.  However, Leo Villareal’s light sculpture is what I most remember.  Placed over the truly grand staircase up to the 2nd floor, this eye-commanding sculpture contains 23,000 restless LED lights.  Intended to be temporary when the Renwick reopened in 2015 after a 2-year, $30 million redo, this rectangular light show was so popular that it became a permanent, must-see fixture.

Originally known as the American Louvre, the Renwick has been so altered that thisisinsider.com includes it in its list of the 25 best museums in America, ranking it #22.

Some of what was on display when Ruth and I were there is sort of permanent, but a lot of it will have been replaced by other craft objects by the time you’ve looked at Villareal’s lights a 2nd time and repeated, “WOW!”  I still hope you get to see Viktor Schreckengost’s witty “Apocalypse ’42” sculpture, Sabrina Gschwandtner’s sublime fiber design, and Silas Kopf’s funny “Bad Hare Day” cabinet.  Hopefully, they’ll become permanent fixtures at the Renwick.

 

Hank

About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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