East Building of the National Gallery of Art Reopens

NGA, East BuildingAfter three years of renovation, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, reopened on September 30th. I grabbed my new Canon G9x to check out the opening.

The art museum is in two buildings – the West, which is home to Monet masterworks and more, while the East is known for its Calder mobiles and other bits of puzzling modern art.

The West Building has better art. It’s an art history course spanning centuries of Western tradition.

But the East Building has always been way more interesting visually. It’s a dream for photographers, with a soaring interior bathed in natural light and terraces that remind one of Romeo and Juliet. And is home to that NGA wall, a favorite among Instagrammers.

that NGA wall

Navigating the East Building is still a puzzling exercise. The renovation added new stairs and elevators, trying to form a cohesive whole out of what is essentially different platforms under one roof. Expect to get lost if you visit.


Calder mobile at NGAThe highlight of the renovation is the Roof Terrace, an outdoor sculpture garden overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. Lean over the edge and you can see the Capitol. But most people will be drawn toward Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch, on view from July 2016 as a long-term loan from Glenstone Museum in Potomac, MD.

This majestic blue rooster is destined to appear in thousands of Instagram selfies. Gallery visitors no longer just want to look at art (like they would in the West Building); instead, they want to create art. With themselves in it. They want to capture and share the experience of visiting the National Gallery of Art.

Hahn/Cock roof of NGA, East Building Capitol view from NGA, East Building

Hahn/Cock is more than just a work of art – it’s a marketing tool for the National Gallery of Art, something that can be digitally reproduced and shared with audiences well beyond any that the museum could reach. The chance of an Iowa teen reading an NGA brochure is nil; but she will look at her friend’s Instagram photo of the iconic blue rooster and ask, “Where’s that?” Thus, a new generation of art connoisseurs is born.

Visit the roof. Take a selfie with the blue chicken. Not just because it’s fun, but because you might just inspire a future artist.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

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