Eye Level

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

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

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.
on December 27, 2016

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.

Movies at SAAM: Winter Edition

Please join us for "Movies at SAAM's" winter season of films about American art and artists. If you enjoy learning about the creative process, history of African American photography, and contemplating the nature of great art, then you're sure to enjoy what we have in store for you.
Ryan on December 7, 2016

Photography Encouraged: Noguchi Edition

Today, we begin a periodic series of photos visitors take in our galleries where, with many exhibitions, photography is encouraged. In my daily dive into our social media interactions, I take note of the unique ways you, our visitors, capture your experience in SAAM and the Renwick Gallery.
Amy on December 1, 2016

An Appreciation for Artist William Christenberry

SAAM mourns the loss of artist and friend, William Christenberry, who died this past Monday at 80. As a young man, Christenberry often traveled the back roads of the South with his father. He studied painting as a graduate student at the University of Alabama until he discovered James Agee‘s book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Jeff on November 30, 2016