Tag Archives: gallery

Where to Buy Kachina Dolls, Sandpaintings, Sealskin Thimbles, and Other Gorgeous Pieces of Native American Art

You may think that finding carefully-selected, idiosyncratic, and precious Native American art is a pleasure limited to the galleries of Santa Fe or the dusty roads outside of Flagstaff, but happily the Indian Craft Shop brings the experience to our Mid-Atlantic and metropolitan world.

The shop is a small yet jaw-droppingly comprehensive little place that has been home to contemporary Native American art since 1938.  It is located in the Interior Department building, the agency that is home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  It features art from approximately 45 North American tribes at one time, but draws from all 565 federally-recognized Indian tribes (the only qualification to have art selected to be sold in the store). All levels of artisans are considered for inclusion, from amateurs to professionals.  Employees of the Indian Craft Shop travel constantly, scouting out new artists to feature.

And, the selection is magnificent, even though it only takes up one room!  Ivory carvings, basketry, weaving, turquoise jewelry, bronze sculptures, almost any kinds of Indian art that you can think of with artists currently practicing are featured.  My favorite quality is that every piece is signed and dated by the artist, indicating how unique the art is.  To get a better taste of the shop’s wide range of art, check out the online store.

I was very impressed by the willingness of the staff to engage with me in details about the collection, even though I am merely an amateur fan.  If you are seeking to learn more about Indian art, also check out the book selection—a staffer bragged to me that it has every book in print related to Indian art!

Because the Indian Craft Shop is located in a federal building, it is only open during business hours during the week, and one Saturday per month.  You should also be prepared to go through security and show a photo ID.  But once you’re in the building, be sure to check out the National Park Service information center, and plan your next trip outdoors onto the public lands.  Also of interest in the building is the Interior Museum, though it’s currently closed for renovations.

To visit:  1849 C St. NW, (202) 208-4056.  Hours are M-F 8:30am- 4:30pm, and the third Saturday of the month 10am-4pm.  Closest Metro is Farragut West, or S1 bus line.

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A Worldly Brunch at the National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is decidedly not off-the-beaten-path, yet its Garden Café has a hidden treasure that is one of the most delightful and delicious food conceits in the city.  The Café features a $19.75 all-you-can-eat menu that is designed by a well-known Washington chef and inspired by the featured exhibit in the museum’s ground-floor galleries.

Currently the Garden Café reflects the “From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection” exhibit, and runs until February 10th 2011.  Perhaps best of all for the amateur DC foodie is that the menu is hand-designed by Chef Michel Richard, of Central and Citronelle fame.  Previous Garden Café themes over the last few years have included Spanish by celebrated Chef Jose Andres, “Summer in Venice” featuring traditional Venetian dishes, Central American inspired by ancient Mayan recipes, and the American Café serving crab cakes and Boston cream pie.  Upcoming in mid-February is Garden Café Italia, with a menu designed by Chef Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola.

The menu of the “Garden Café Français” is an impressive array of classic French food, from Camembert and Roquefort cheeses and charcuterie to soups and salad to ratatouille and stew. Especially divine, of course, was the chocolate mousse. Although all-you-can-eat French food is a tad oxymoronic, I was certainly back for more than one plate!  I will give major points to the National Gallery of Art for its impressive set of vegetarian options, especially for such a condensed menu.

The Garden Café’s atmosphere is wonderfully charming, with dozens of skylights and a tinkling fountain displaying Herbert Adams’ sculpture Girl with Water Lilies.  It is quite fun to eat while the hubbub of the museum carries on around, and feels nearly improper to be sipping a cup of coffee and eating mousse while tourists wander aimlessly nearby!  If brunch and art history is your perfect pairing, this is the place for you.

To get there:  National Gallery of Art west wing,   (202) 712-7454.  Hours:  Hours Monday–Saturday 11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m., Sunday noon–4:00 p.m.  NGA is right on the Mall, so accessible from various metros and bus lines.

*Correction:  an earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the National Gallery of Art as a part of the Smithsonian Institution.  Thanks to a savvy commenter for pointing this out!

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Feeling Hoi Polloi at the Hillwood Estate

The best way to describe the feeling and demeanor of the Hillwood Estate, Musuem, and Gardens (motto: “where fabulous lives”) is that it is home to a Fabergé egg, a gigantic original portrait of Catherine the Great, and multimillions of dollars of Russian porcelain.  That’ll put you in your place, won’t it?!

Hillwood, one of the many homes of famed D.C. philanthropist Marjorie Merriweather Post, is fantastic.  It is made up of an art-filled mansion and dozens of small and finely pruned gardens, and  Post spent the final 20 years of her life adding to its collections.  Heiress to and head of the Postum/General Foods Corporation, Post purchased Hillwood in 1955 and from the beginning envisioned it as the perfect setting for her extensive art collection.  She always planned on turning the collection over to the public, in the vein of her contemporaries Isabella Stewart Gardner and Henry Frick.

The mansion is the heart of the art collection, filled with mostly 18th century French and Russian Imperial art arranged in about ten different rooms.  Two of the most stunning rooms are the English library and the dining room, featuring gorgeous portraits of Post and her family, antiques, and lace table settings and crystal glassware.  I also loved the kitchen, which is frozen in time around 1955—as a food maven, Post had all of the newest gadgets like a large freezers for frozen foods that had just come on the scene.  The bedroom suites are also stunning, and Post’s bedroom displays a number of her gowns, shoes, and jewelry.

Outside the mansion, the work of the full-time horticultural staff easily stands out.  The grounds include large vegetable and flower plots, roses, a Japanese garden, and a pet cemetery.  A greenhouse filled with orchids at various stages in their growing processes is also well attended to.  Also located on the estate are a “dacha” (Russian country house) and the Adirondack building, both of which house traveling art collections but were closed to the public when I visited.

I would highly suggest visiting Hillwood for afternoon tea, served from 3:30-5:30 every day for $14 per guest.  During summer months, you have your choice of iced or hot tea, as well as an arrangement of tiny and delicious cakes and sandwiches.

Exploring Marjorie Merriweather Post’s world through Hillwood is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  She truly was a maven of art, style, and philanthropy, and left quite the gift to our city.

To visit:  4155 Linnean Ave NW, a short walk from the Van Ness-UDC Metro.  Open Tuesdays-Saturdays and some Sundays, 10am-5pm.  202-686-5807.

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Visit a New, Permanent Ansel Adams Exhibit

Every now and then the Corcoran or another art gallery in Washington, D.C. will host the photographs of Ansel Adams, and it’s always a rousing success.  Now, a collection of the esteemed photographer’s work has opened for permanent display at The Wilderness Society’s headquarters, located downtown near the Farragut North/West Metro stops.

Ansel Adams, one of our country’s foremost environmental activists,  had a long history of involvement with The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups like the Sierra Club.  He spent much of his time using his influence to protect the special places that he had photographed, writing thousands of letters, lobbying decision-makers, and fighting relentlessly against developing the places he loved.

All this and more about his life can be learned by visiting the collection, which is comprised of 75 of Adams’ finest prints arranged in lovely wooden frames.  An explanatory plaque notes that Adams gave these prints to The Wilderness Society as a gift, in honor of the collaboration that the organization and the photographer developed over the years.

The Ansel Adams Collection is small, so you won’t need more than an hour to see it, but take the time to digest his work.  It is open weekdays from 10am-5pm, and there talk of keeping it open on weekends, but no decision as to when that will occur.  So, at this point you’ll just have take your lunch hour to browse a collection of beautiful black and white photographs of the natural world!

To visit:  The Wilderness Society is located on the first floor of an office building at 1615 M St. NW, phone: 202-833-2300.

Disclosure:  The author of this post is an employee of The Wilderness Society.

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