Eye Level

Eye Level is the blog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery. Publishing behind-the-scenes museum stories since 2005.

Luce Artist Talk: Five Questions (+2) with Sparkplug Collective

Each month, the Luce Foundation Center partners with neighboring Flashpoint Gallery to bring local artists to speak about their artwork and how it relates to SAAM's collection. This Sunday, we welcome Sparkplug Collective, eight local artists from the D.C. Arts Center, to discuss how collaboration and continued education help local artists thrive.

Missed Connections for Valentine's Day

At SAAM, we're always connecting people with our artworks. On Valentine's Day, we thought we'd explore one of the more interesting sections of many print and online publications these days: the often poetic, always interesting urban haiku of missed connections. Please check out our Instagram feed for more artful missed connections.

An Evening with Lonnie Holley

Our Luce Unplugged series has been pairing art and music together since 2010. Typically highlighting the work of local musicians, we're excited to present a special pop-up performance with visiting artist Lonnie Holley at the Luce Foundation Center on Friday, February 10, from 5:30-7 p.m. Join us for an art talk and music concert!

Harlem Heroes and Black History Month

The cultural efflorescence that was the Harlem Renaissance is captured in a series of portraits currently on view in the exhibition Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten.

Celebrating the Year of the Rooster at SAAM

This year, SAAM was delighted to host our annual celebration of the Chinese New Year on the first day of the year, Saturday, January 28. So many friends and families (all 7,000 of you!) turned out to enjoy the activities and performances in the Kogod Courtyard.

Stephanie Stebich Appointed New SAAM Director

Stephanie Stebich, executive director of the Tacoma Art Museum in Tacoma, Wash., since 2005, has been named The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, effective April 3.
Jeff on January 24, 2017

Seeing Things (17): Art and Healing

This is the seventeenth in a series of personal observations about how people experience and explore museums. Take a look at Howard's other blog posts about seeing things in a museum.

Folk and Self-Taught Art, Now in the Luce Center

SAAM's open storage Luce Foundation Center is by no means a static place. With a calendar full of public programs and one of the most Instagrammable spaces in the city (we may be biased), you can see how the space is constantly changing in our folk and self-taught art cases.

Gene Davis: The Cool Guy of Hot Beat

ene Davis, a journalist before he was a painter, knew the power of words. He spoke his wise and sometimes ornery mind, aware of the momentary impact and the eventual documentation of his life and career. This explains why his own bon mots (not the curators') flank most of the 15 paintings—all permutations of the stripe—in Gene Davis: Hot Beat, on view through April 2.

New Acquisitions: Self-Taught Art from the Margaret Z. Robson Collection

SAAM has acquired nearly one-hundred works of self-taught art from the collection of Margaret Z. Robson. The paintings, drawings, and sculptures were created by forty-eight artists including James Castle, Thornton Dial Sr., Judith Scott, and Bill Traylor. The Robson gift comprises the largest acquisition of self-taught artworks in 20 years and reaffirms the museum's deep and lasting commitment to this area of artistic endeavor.

Isamu Noguchi: Watering the Art

Objects conservators have a challenging job. On any given day Ariel O'Connor, an art object conservator at SAAM, might be asked to research, examine, document, and treat works of art made with bronze, wood, plastic, stone, plaster, glass, and many, many other types of materials. The recently-opened Isamu Noguchi exhibition Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern perfectly exemplifies this material diversity, with sculptures ranging from heavy stone obelisks to feather-light delicate bamboo and paper lanterns. Even with years of training and experience, one sculpture is proving to be a unique challenge for Ariel: a 3,000 pound basalt stone fountain titled The Well.

Guest Curator Dakin Hart Speaks About the Work of Isamu Noguchi

On December 1, Dakin Hart, senior curator of The Noguchi Museum and co-curator of Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern gave a talk at SAAM on the themes of the exhibition. As Hart navigates Noguchi's visionary work, he looks at the artist's ability to take inspiration from the ancient and the modern to create abstract and timeless works.
Amy on December 22, 2016

Betsy Broun’s Vision: An Appreciation

I have worked my entire professional life knowing only one boss, Betsy Broun. She retired yesterday after nearly 30 years at the helm of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. So I've been taking stock of her vision for the museum and how the ways we connect with people to tell stories of art in a citizen democracy are tied to her ideas about American art and contemporary society.
Laura on December 15, 2016

Director's Choice: Who Made the Cut, Part II

n honor of Elizabeth "Betsy" Broun's nearly thirty years at the helm of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and her imminent retirement, Broun spoke to a full house at the McEvoy Auditorium this past October, revealing insights and personal observations about her favorite works of art in SAAM's collection. And since she's the director, her Top Ten contains eighteen artworks. Last month, we posted the first part of her "Top Ten." Today, we are posting the rest on her list of favorites.

Conversation Piece: Martin Puryear's Vessel

Each month, visitors to SAAM are invited to participate in a discussion-based program called Conversation Pieces. Spending an hour with a single work of contemporary art, participants engage in an open-ended experience of guided looking and discussion facilitated by Joanna Marsh, Senior Curator of Contemporary Interpretation.