By: Muzna Hatmi
While this blog post is titled a good old ‘A Day at the Museum,’ (for the catchy Night at the Museum vibe, which by the way, was also filmed in DC), it can also be read as ‘a day (or days) at the most underrated museums in DC.’
I’m saying this now, I’m a great big art lover. I studied history of art in high school, and I can spend entire days at art exhibitions, yes, even the boring ones. So, disclaimer: this post is mainly about where to see underrated art in Washington DC. However, if you're an insta-freak like me, stay tuned, I got you.
To get the most important information out of the way, all Smithsonian museums in Washington DC are absolutely free! And that is just one of the many things I love about living here and probably the only reason why I leave my warm bed on weekends.
Freer and Sackler Gallery – Where Asia Meets America
Or should I say, where America meets Asia? Because that is technically the case, Freer Sackler.
Anyway, while Freer and Sackler is not exactly a museum, it is still somewhere in that category for its wonderful collection from the beautiful and diverse region of… you guessed it! Asia!
The first time that I visited the gallery was with my South Asian Art class from GWU. Fun fact (and to be more specific): I had always been interested in western European art, so automatically, I never even considered learning about art from my own region (reminder: I’m Pakistani) because I think I did not value it enough until I enrolled in this class and really understood the meaning behind some of its symbols and all that (not getting too technical, y’alls).
My favorite area in Freer and Sackler Gallery is The Peacock Room, and also the nature-filled courtyard to just sit and chill, and take it all in. If you go, a must see is the current exhibition called]My Iran: Six Women Photographers. Not giving much away, but the exhibition deals with a picture beyond what we know about the beautiful country of Iran – both moving and powerful!
National Portrait Gallery
The name says it. This was one of the first I visited in DC and I was in awe! Another fun fact: I’m a portrait photographer, and so I was obviously and extremely excited to see all the great works of art on display here. The museum offers a wide range of collections in sculpture form, photography, and painting. It also hosts portraits of some of the most iconic figures of all times like Charlie Chaplin, George Washington (because that's important for obvious reasons) and even Bill Gates. Speaking of which, the must see and my favorite part of the gallery is the Hall of President’s which contains portraits of nearly all-American presidents, the largest collection after the White House itself. The museum has other cool stuff as well, like portraits of Barbie. Yes, Barbie.
You can still catch 29Rooms in New York, LA, or even Tokyo. Perhaps again in DC? Because it is literally the Instagram museums of your dreams! Not free unlike the other two, 29Rooms is the brainchild of Refinery 29 which features 29 different art exhibits, visually appealing and creative rooms, like a ‘teenager bedroom,’ and interactive spaces so you can dance, paint, sing, selfie. I covered the event a few days ago on Instagram, so if you’re looking to see what I mean when I say it is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, check it out!