Galleries for Modern and Contemporary Art

Temporarily Closed

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)


Electronic Superhighway
Nam June Paik,Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2002.23, © Nam June Paik Estate

Note: Galleries on the museum’s third floor where modern and contemporary artworks are displayed, including the Lincoln Gallery, temporarily closed to the public on July 12, 2021 to make way for new artworks and new stories. The refreshed galleries are expected to reopen in 2023.

SAAM’s galleries for modern and contemporary art display selections from the permanent collection from the 1940s to the present. Major twentieth-century movements including Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, and pop art are represented with works by Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Gene Davis, Sam Gilliam, Alma Thomas, James Rosenquist, and Tom Wesselmann, among others.

Work by contemporary artists such as Luis Cruz Azaceta, Mark Bradford, Deborah Butterfield, Theaster Gates, Jeffery Gibson, Bryan Hunt, Kerry James Marshall, Tom Nakashima, Martin Puryear, Lava Thomas, and Mickalene Thomas are on display in SAAM’s light-filled and historical Lincoln Gallery. A striking presence in this gallery are large-scale works including Sky Cathedral by Louise Nevelson, Sollie 17 by Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz, David Hockney’s Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance," Nam June Paik’s Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Jenny Holzer’s For SAAM.

A particular collecting focus in recent years has been video and time-based media. The museum has assembled a collection that examines the history as well as latest developments in time-based media. A dedicated gallery, established in 2010, allows for the presentation of the full range of media art practices.