National Museum of African Art, Washington DC

4.4
The National Museum of African Art is the Smithsonian Institution's African art museum, located on the National Mall of the United States capital. Its collections include 9,000 works of traditional and contemporary African art from both Sub-Saharan and Arab North Africa, 300,000 photographs, and 50,000 library volumes. It was the first institution dedicated to African art in the United States, and remains the largest collection. The Washington Post called the museum a mainstay in the international art world and the main venue for contemporary African art in the United States.The museum was founded in 1964 by a Foreign Service officer and layman who bought African art objects in Germany and multiple houses in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in which to display them. The collection focused on traditional African art and an educational mission to teach black cultural heritage. To ensure the museum's longevity, the founder lobbied the national legislature to adopt the museum under the Smithsonian's auspices. It joined the Smithsonian in 1979 and became the National Museum of African Art two years later. A new, mostly underground museum building was completed in 1987, just off the National Mall and adjacent to other Smithsonian museums. It is among the Smithsonian's smallest museums.The African art museum took a scholarly direction over the next twenty years, with less social programming. It collected traditional and contemporary works of historical importance. Exhibitions include works both internal and borrowed, and have ranged from solo artist to broad, survey shows. The museum hosts two to three temporary exhibitions and ten special events annually. Reviewers criticized the National Mall building's architecture, particularly its lack of natural light. The museum is scheduled for remodeling as part of the Smithsonian's upcoming South Mall project.
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National Museum of African Art Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
233 reviews
Google
4.7
TripAdvisor
  • From the outside this museum looks small, but under the Moongate Garden there are 3 floors where beautiful African art is to be seen. There is a department with paintings and drawings, but the exhibition Striking Iron: "The Art of African Blacksmiths" We found the most beautiful. On various screens you see how some attributes are created. Really recommended!
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  • Located next to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur Sackler Gallery, I visited it after touring these Galleries. Note that all its exhibits are at the Lower Levels, S1, S2, and S3. Marble staircases a...  more »
Google
  • Beautiful beautiful beautiful... I love museums and this one has some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen. It’s very sensory. With sounds and visuals the lighting all perfect. I could stay for hours. Not to mention the museums are free in DC, So that is a huge plus. It’s a place that keeps you interested at every turn. I took a few photos but there is much much more to see. If you are in the DC area I definitely suggest stopping by. Or dedicating at list one day of your trip to museum hop. The Smithsonian has a few different museums also a castle which is pretty cool as well! The museum was not crowded it’s a great place to take refuge on a hot day or a really cold day. They have bathrooms places to sit and usually a little cafe. Although food is not allowed in or around the exhibits.
  • A compilation of educational pieces of art. I enjoyed the journey through the various artistes eyes and vision. Visited the gift shop: the agent wasn't as friendly, no greeting as we came in. She barely spoke when we left. Items from around the world, can be found here a bit pricey, different, but nice.
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