The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which opened to the public in October 1974, is the Smithsonian Institution’s museum of modern and contemporary art. The collection was initially formed by a series of bequests, from 1966 through 1981, from its founding donor, Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Gifts from other donors and museum purchases have increased the breadth of the collection, which now numbers approximately twelve thousand works of art.
The collection, which is international in scope, encompasses American and European paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings of the nineteenth century through the present as well as photography, media art, and performance works. In addition to such nineteenth-century artists as Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer, the painting collection includes in-depth holdings of many twentieth-century Americans, including Josef Albers, Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Marsden Hartley, Morris Louis, Georgia O’Keeffe, Horace Pippin, Clyfford Still, and Frank Stella. Supplementing those are paintings by European and Latin American artists, notably Francis Bacon, Fernando Botero, Jean Dubuffet, George Grosz, Oskar Kokoschka, Matta, Giorgio Morandi, Antoní Tapies, and Joaquin Torres-García.
The well-known sculpture collection covers the history of European sculpture from the mid-nineteenth century through the present, with major holdings of works by Alexander Archipenko, Ernst Barlach, Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti, Oto Gutfreund, Barbara Hepworth, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Medardo Rosso, and others. Complementing those are important sculptures by Americans, such as Joseph Cornell, Gaston Lachaise, Elie Nadelman, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, and David Smith. Monumental sculptures by Huma Bhabha, Jeff Koons, Henry Moore, Auguste Rodin, and others are featured in the Sculpture Garden and Plaza, as are a pavilion by Dan Graham and an interactive piece by Yoko Ono.
Recent acquisitions have concentrated on international contemporary art, such as paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by Michael Armitage, Nicole Eisenman, Charline von Heyl, Tony Lewis, Kent Monkman, Senga Nengudi, Nicolas Party, Huang Yong Ping, Deborah Roberts, and Lee Ufan. Recently acquired works in photography, installation, media, and performance art include pieces by such artists as Ed Atkins, Gretchen Bender, John Giorno, Arthur Jafa, Isaac Julien, Ragnar Kjartansson, Yayoi Kusama, Alicja Kwade, Zanele Muholi, Sondra Perry, Hito Steyerl, and Rikrit Tiravanija.
Programs and Research Facilities
The Hirshhorn maintains an active exhibition schedule focused on exploring or re-examining key moments and figures in modern and contemporary culture and is dedicated to undertaking deep research and organizing projects that ask essential questions about the art and culture of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Recent thematic exhibitions exploring aspects of modern and contemporary art have included Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s; Marvelous Objects: Surrealist Sculpture from Paris to New York; Days of Endless Time; and Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950. Recent monographic shows have explored the oeuvres of such artists as Laurie Anderson, Georg Baselitz, Marcel Duchamp, Charline von Heyl, Robert Irwin, and Ai Weiwei, along with commissions from Mark Bradford and Pat Steir.
The Hirshhorn’s Directions series, which ran from 1987 to 2014, focused on emerging contemporary artists such as Ericka Beckman, Janet Cardiff, Tacita Dean, Leonardo Drew, Cai Guo-Qiang, Jennie C. Jones, Tony Oursler, Ernesto Neto, Pipilotti Rist, Shahzia Sikander, and Amy Sillman. Its Black Box series featured videos by emerging and established artists and artist collectives, including Francis Alÿs, Kimsooja, Superflex, Guido van der Werve, and others, representing a broad range of nations and approaches to new media.
The schedule of special, temporary exhibitions is complemented by ongoing dynamic rotations of the collection, designed not only to showcase a wide range of the Hirshhorn’s varied holdings, but also to encourage visitors to ask questions and experience art from a variety of perspectives. In addition to individual gallery installations of masterworks from the Hirshhorn’s collection organized either around individual artists or themes, the Museum also presents major exhibitions drawn from its holdings, such as the recent Manifesto: Art x Agency.
To promote the study of modern and contemporary art, the Museum cooperates with art historians, students, and visiting scholars from throughout the United States and abroad. Intern programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels offer opportunities prospective art professionals to partner with the museum’s staff. Curatorial records on the permanent collection and a specialized library of thirty-six thousand volumes, supplemented by the papers of Elmer MacRae concerning the Armory Show of 1913, the Samuel Murray scrapbooks, and the Olga Hirshhorn Collection of Photographs of Artists, provide a rich source for research; graduate students, artists, and scholars may use the Museum’s facilities by prior appointment.
Hankins, Evelyn C., Head Curator. B.A. (1990) University of California, Santa Barbara; M.A. (1994), Ph.D. (1999) Stanford University. Research specialties: American modernism; American and European postwar and contemporary art, particularly paintings and works on paper; museum theory. Contact: HankinsE@si.edu
Isgro, Marina, Associate Curator of Media and Performance Art at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. B.A. (2008) Princeton University; M.A. (2013) University of Pennsylvania; Ph.D. (2017) University of Pennsylvania. Research specialties: time-based media art; history of video; Nam June Paik studies; postwar art in Europe; performance and participatory art; kinetic art; art and technology. Contact: IsgroM@si.edu
Reeve, Anne, Associate Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. B.A. (2004) Sarah Lawrence College; M.A. (2008) University College London. Research specialties: American and European postwar art; history of sculpture, contemporary art, contemporary sculpture and installation art; art and public space, public sculpture, art and politics. Contact: ReeveA@si.edu
Johnson, Betsy, Assistant Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. B.A. (1998) The Pennsylvania State University; M.A. (2004) The Pennsylvania State University. Research specialties: conceptual art, performance art, photography, and modern/contemporary Japanese art. Contact: JohnsonEi@si.edu