If there's one thing Washington knows how to do, it's a museum.
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler
Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Thrills ran through the local art world last year when Glenstone reopened its doors to the public after a massive expansion. After all, this isn’t just a museum—it’s an experience. Set on 300 acres of rolling hills just outside of the city, Glenstone blends art, architecture, and landscape design in a way that encourages visitors to turn off the noise of the digital world and connect with what’s in front of you. Sculptures emerge as you travel the marked pathway that leads from the Arrival Hall into the heart of the museum grounds.
What will we find in the permanent collection?
Your first stop at Glenstone will likely be the Pavilions, an austere new 204,000-square-foot gallery space built of glass and gray concrete slabs. Designed by Thomas Phifer, the Pavilions might seem to be composed of 11 separate gallery spaces rising from the ground, but they are, in fact, all one building. You’ll see works by major names in conceptual and modern art such as Marcel Duchamp, Yayoi Kusama, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol, as well as the Moon Landing triptych in On Kawara’s Date Paintings series, which commemorates the Apollo 11 mission.
You’ll also be surrounded by the permanent collection as you walk through the property. Sculptures like Jeff Koons’ Split-Rocker, a rocking chair head that’s part pony and part dinosaur, made up of thousands of plants and flowers that are replanted once every year; as well as FOREST (for a thousand years…), a multisensory experience created by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller fit seamlessly into the landscape.
And the temporary exhibits?
Just as with the permanent collection, Glenstone’s seasonal exhibits challenge you to reflect on how they make you feel. On our most recent visit, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s interactive Fear Eats the Soul invited visitors to tour a facsimile of one of the artist’s past gallery shows, then share a meal at a soup kitchen (with a rotating menu, including a delicious pumpkin curry).
What did you make of the crowd?
Though Washingtonians might be clamoring to get in, Glenstone has a timed ticketing system that ensures you’ll always have space for quiet contemplation. Even inside the Pavilions, serenity reigns as your fellow museum goers (for the most part) thoughtfully consider the meanings of the works before them. There was an older crowd on our most recent visit—seemingly all art obsessives.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Benches are well-placed around the Pavilions and along pathways. Complimentary wheelchairs and gallery chairs are available, but you’ll need to travel by foot if you choose to traverse the trails at the perimeter of the property.
Any guided tours worth trying?
There are no tours, but guides (dressed all in gray) are stationed throughout the Pavilions and other main areas of the museum grounds. Note, too, that Glenstone doesn’t offer detailed descriptions of each artwork—the idea is for you to ponder each work's meaning for yourself.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Glenstone doesn’t have a gift shop, but a small bookshop in the Arrivals hall sells postcards and books on art, architecture, and landscape design.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
You’re most likely going to be spending the day at Glenstone—and, fortunately, they’ve got you covered for lunch. In the Café, you’ll find options like charcuterie plates, gazpacho, roast beef sandwiches, and sweet potato biscuits, plus wine, coffee, and tea. Meanwhile, the Patio has a smaller menu (including wraps) with specialty coffees.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
If you think you'll be short on time you may want to just pick a different day when your schedule is more open. Tickets to this museum—which are free, by the way—are among the most sought-after in the city, and you don't want to rush the experience. Take your time wandering around the pathways and soaking in the sensory details.
matt f.: These are not debates. Debates are discussions between individuals in which they point out the flaws of other debaters' ideas and plans, while pointing out how their plans are superior. This is solely an echo chamber of like-minded politicians discussing things. There exists no debate whatsoever amongst these individuals.