The SAAM presents significant aspects of American visual culture.
The collection includes photography, modern folk and self-taught art, African American art, Latino art, video games, the largest collection of New Deal art, and exceptional collections of contemporary craft, American impressionist paintings and masterpieces from the Gilded Age. In recent years, the museum has focused on strengthening its holdings of contemporary art, media arts in particular.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum shares its collections, programs, and exhibitions in two locations in Washington, DC. SAAM’s main building is located at the heart of a vibrant downtown cultural district, while its recently renovated branch museum for contemporary craft and decorative art, the Renwick Gallery, is located nine blocks west, near the White House. (See separate isting)
Whether you go or not, A History of the Smithsonian American Art Museum: The Intersection of Art, Science, and Bureaucracy is a probing narrative, exploring how the history of the museum is hardly one of steady progress. Instead, it reads like a nineteenth-century melodrama, replete with villains and heroes, destruction by fire, dashed hopes, and periods of subsistence survival―all leading eventually to a happy ending. In recounting the history of the museum from 1846 to 1980, Finkthe author unravels the various levels of institutional authority, power, governance, and bureaucracy and shows how people at each level influenced the fortunes of the collection. She also places changing concepts of art and museum practice in the context of national ideals and Washington realities.
40 paintings from the mid-late 1830s exploring the buffalo and the lives of Native Americans
9 maquettes provide a window into the creative process
150 paintings blend an elite Japanese art training with California modernism