Exhibitions

John Akomfrah at his London studio, 2016

Artist John Akomfrah Is Having a Moment

The works of the recently knighted filmmaker address contemporary issues in two different Smithsonian museums

Frederick Douglass, Unidentified Artist, Sixth-plate daguerreotype c. 1841

Why We Need to Understand Frederick Douglass Now More Than Ever

The great orator was a branding genius, and a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery showcases his motivations

Nam June Paik’s 1995 Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii—a pulsing map of the 50 states lined with 575 feet of multicolored neon tubing, with each state defined by flickering video from 336 televisions and 50 DVD players—is one of the museum’s most popular pieces.

With Renovated Galleries, the Smithsonian Expands Its Approach to Contemporary American Art

The historic hall in the American Art Museum where President Abraham Lincoln held his second inaugural ball welcomes more diverse voices and visions

Alma Thomas, Autumn Leaves Fluttering in the Breeze, 1973, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 50 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of the artist, 1980.36.9

Alma Thomas' Signature Style Is Full of Color and Tiled Brushstrokes

After a career as a schoolteacher, the Washington, D.C.-based painter flourished, creating vibrant patterns inspired by nature, the cosmos and music

Installation view of Jessica Diamond: Wheel Of Life at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2023. Acrylic and latex paint on wall.

The Painted Poetry of Jessica Diamond

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum hosts the artist’s largest installation yet

Installation photography of Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2023.

Video Artists Set the American Experience to Music

The Smithsonian American Art Museum brings its latest time-based media art to the widest possible audience, including the deaf and hearing impaired

In 1963, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to the largest crowd ever to participate in a civil rights demonstration in Washington, D.C. where he delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech.

To Mark the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' Speech Goes on Display

The draft on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture was produced a few hours before King took to the podium

Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke/Crow), Four Seasons series: Summer, 2006, archival pigment print, edition 27, 23 x 26 inches

These Artists Are Redefining the American West

A new Smithsonian American Art Museum show surveys the work of Black, Asian American, Indigenous, LGBTQ+ and Latinx artists who have lived in the region

Musicians Cindy Campbell and DJ Kool Herc take center stage in a 2013 celebration of the 40th anniversary of hip-hop. The brother and sister duo threw a "Back-to School Jam" in August, 1973 and launched a lasting music genre.

How Hip-Hop Was Born 50 Years Ago in a Block Party in the Bronx

Arising out of New York's close-knit Black communities, the genre revolutionized the music industry and gave rise to a new generation of sounds and stars

The "1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions" exhibition is on display at the National Portrait Gallery through February 25, 2024.

How the War of 1898 Changed History Forever—in the United States and Beyond

When the nascent naval power invaded Puerto Rico, three artists captured the moment, each explaining its significance in their own way

Robert Houle. Red is Beautiful, 1970. Acrylic on canvas, 45.5 x 61 cm. Canadian Museum of History.

Making Strong Points Through Vivid Color Has Been Artist Robert Houle's Life Work

The first major retrospective of the Anishinaabe artist in the United States shows how he combines ancestral design and abstract painting

"1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions" exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery

See a Life-Size Portrait of Queen Lili‘uokalani, the Last Reigning Monarch of Hawai‘i

The William Cogswell painting, now on display at the National Portrait Gallery, was likely a means for the ruler to assert her right to the throne

"Cellphone: Unseen Connections" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History walks through every aspect of the technology.

How Cellphones Connect Us All

A new Natural History Museum exhibition explores how the devices link us to Earth and to a network of people worldwide involved in their supply chain

The 10th installment of the Renwick Invitational, "Sharing Honors and Burdens," is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. (Above: Memorial Beats by Lily Hope, 2021, thigh-spun merino and cedar bark with copper, headphones, and audio files, 16 × 4 × 10 in.)

Six Native Artists Share Their Honors and Burdens in This Year's Renwick Invitational

The emerging and established Native American and Alaska Native creators bring innovation to traditional art practices

Losang Samten, a Tibetan American scholar and former Buddhist monk, will create, with the help of festivalgoers, a sand mandala.

The 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Explores the Many Ways Americans Express Their Spirituality

Tibetan Buddhist monks, Yiddish musicians and many more creatives will share their cultural practices with visitors to the National Mall

Gay Days at Disney World is one of the nation's largest Pride Month events.

LGBTQ+ Pride

What Disney Theme Parks Tell Us About Ourselves

An American History Museum exhibition looks at how the resorts have changed over time to reflect a broader image of what it means to be American

“From the Deep: In the Wake of Drexciya With Ayana V. Jackson” is currently on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art through April 2024 (above: When the Spirit of Kalunda Comes So Does Kianda, Ayana V. Jackson, 2018-2022).

Meet the Inhabitants of the Mythic World of Drexciya

Artist Ayana V. Jackson creates an undersea realm honoring those who jumped or were thrown overboard during the trans-Atlantic slave trade

“Anyang: China’s Ancient City of Kings” is on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art (above: A grouping of bronze and ceramic wine cups and warmers that date to 1100-1150 B.C.E.) 

A U.S.-China Collaboration a Century Ago Helped Find Riches of a Lost Civilization

The first U.S. exhibition to display the wonders of China’s ancient city of Anyang is on view at the National Museum of Asian Art

The new exhibition “1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions” aims to shine a light on the controversial period when the United States intervened in Cuba, Guam, Hawaiʻi, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. (above: President William McKinley, Francisco Oller, 1898, detail).

The Overlooked Histories Behind America’s Rise as a World Power

The National Portrait Gallery’s new exhibition addresses the War of 1898, a pivotal but often forgotten period in history

The National Museum of Asian Art's on-going exhibition "Ay-O’s Happy Rainbow Hell," (above: rainbow night 10 from the series, "Rainbow Passes Slowly" by Ay-O, 1971, screenprint 5/55) is part of the museum's 2023 centennial celebrations.

Take a Radiating, Immersive Trip Into ‘Ay-O’s Happy Rainbow Hell’

The National Museum of Asian Art is the first U.S. museum to survey the vivid silkscreens from the 91-year-old Japanese artist

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