Eye Level

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

The Chair

Tyler Green writes about an off-key Wayne Thiebaud given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum last year as part of a bequest by Arthur and Edith Levin. It's a 1957 painting of an electric chair, which places Thiebaud on the capital punishment beat several years before Andy Warhol stepped his Sing Sing photograph into production in the early 1960s for his iconic electric chair series.
Kriston on April 6, 2006

Best of the Web

The Museums and the Web conference announced the winners of its Best of the Web competition Friday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Michael on March 30, 2006

Manifest Destiny

This doesn't specifically concern American art—or even anything on the planet Earth—but of the craters on the planet Mercury named after important terrestrial cultural figures, only one American artist and one American architect are represented: respectively, John Singleton Copley (latitude: 38.4S, longitude: 85.2W) and Louis Sullivan (latitude: 16.9S, longitude: 86.3W).
Kriston on March 28, 2006

Museums and the Web Wake-Up Call

I thought I was beginning to understand this job just a little bit. We talk to curators and educators about art, listen to the public, and generally get excited about things and try to pull it all together in digital form. We’ve been doing Web and new media for 10 years now, and I was beginning to feel like I was getting the hang of it.
Michael Edson on March 25, 2006

Safire's Spreadsheet

A grammar maven and self-described “vituperative right-wing scandalmonger,” former New York Times opinion columnist William Safire is not your typical arts advocate. But Safire wants you to rethink not only the politics of art but art itself, according to Philip Kennicott’s Washington Post write-up of the 19th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy.
Kriston on March 24, 2006

A Herculean Move

How does SAAM move a monumental artwork into the museum? Watch this video to find out!
Cassandra on March 15, 2006

Grant Wood's Studio

Grant Wood’s iconic work, American Gothic, makes a return visit to Washington for the first time in 40 years. See it—along with lesser-known gems, such as Corn Cob Chandelier— in Grant Wood’s Studio: Birthplace of American Gothic.
Jeff on March 10, 2006

Shedding Some Light on Art

A small crowd gathered in our offices this morning to watch Scott Rosenfeld, SAAM's lighting designer, play with this funky new light fixture.

Michael on March 7, 2006

Another (Alternate) Year, Another Biennial

These days biennials are met as often with fanfare as with handwringing about the state of the curated art survey. Mark Stevens discusses this year’s curator–critic matchup in his New York Magazine pregame analysis of the 2006 Whitney Biennial, “Day for Night,” which opens March 2.
Kriston on March 3, 2006

Site Specific

In light of the recent passing of both Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, Americans may take solace that some progress has been made toward realizing an institution that will pay tribute to them both: the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).
Kriston on March 1, 2006

Installation Piece by Piece

This timelapse video shows SAAM staffers Caroline Little and Dale Hunt installing one of the first cases in our new Luce Foundation Center for American Art.
Cassandra on February 24, 2006


As I'm sure many readers know by now, the tremendous video and Fluxus artist Nam June Paik died last month at the age of 74. Of his many works that have been discussed both in the press and the blogosphere over the last two weeks, one especially comes to mind now that the winter Olympics have begun: the more the better. An installation comprising 1,003 screens, the work was staged in honor of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Kriston on February 22, 2006

The Clay's the Thing

Over the last few months no fewer than three local exhibitions have featured works by Margaret Boozer, giving viewers ample opportunity to think and rethink about her work.
Kriston on February 15, 2006

A Nod From South by Southwest Interactive

Late Friday we got word that Eye Level is a finalist for a South by Southwest Interactive Web Award in the Blog category. SXSW defines this category as "Sites that revolutionize the power of publishing by providing regularly updated content of a personal or professional nature."
Kriston on February 9, 2006

Lucelia Class of '06

And the 14 nominees for the 2006 Smithsonian American Art Museum Lucelia Artist Award are:
Kriston on February 6, 2006

Forward Motion

I think it's a safe bet that there will be 50 to 60 new and bona fide (i.e., seriously authored by qualified people) art world blogs by the end of the year. Why is this significant? In some cases, the blogs may speed up the infotainment machine that's impacting the actual, hands-on, real-world art scene, locally and internationally.
Kriston on February 1, 2006