Art

Proof That Adams Morgan Was Never Fully "Demuralized"

"Un Pueblo Sin Murales Es Un Pueblo Desmuralizado" in 2014, after being restored the second time. (Source: Hola Cultura)

Three figures with wolfish grins gather around a table, red as blood. What’s on the table? Money and houses. It’s a game of Monopoly, but the people aren’t people and the game is strictly metaphorical. This image occupies the upper right quadrant of a mural located at 1817 Adams Mill Road NW in Adams Morgan. The name of the mural: “Un Pueblo Sin Murales Es Un Pueblo Desmuralizado,” which translates to the tongue-in-cheek tautology “A People Without Murals are a Demuralized People.” Now over forty years old, this mural is the largest, oldest and longest-standing Latinx mural in D.C.

Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci

"New Girl in Town": Washington Gets a Leonardo

On a cold night in January 1967, a plane landed quietly at National Airport. No one could know where it came from and what it carried. in fact, the only indication of the plane's arrival came through a coded message, sent by the FBI agents on board: "the Bird" had landed. Despite all this, though, the only thing that came off the plane was a perfectly ordinary, plain grey American Tourister suitcase. No one suspected anything.

However, rumors circulated. Two weeks later, the New York Times broke the news that Washington's National Gallery of Art had landed the art deal of the century: the purchase of a painting by one of the most famous artists in the world, Leonardo da Vinci. 

Official presidential portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1903. Roosevelt stands proudly upon the landing of a staircase.

A Tale of Two Painters: Theodore Roosevelt's Portraits

Edith Roosevelt's official portrait as First Lady was created by the renowned French artist Théobald Chartran in 1902. Throughout France and the United States, critics praised Chartran's work, applauding his ability to showcase Mrs. Roosevelt's distinctive character and beauty.

Unsurprisingly, then, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted a portrait of himself that was equally as flattering. But, in truth, he was not the most pleasant subject to paint—as could be confirmed by two separate portraitists.

How I.M. Pei Brought Modern Architecture to the National Mall

Exterior view of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (Credit: Difference Engine on Wikipedia, licensed via Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license)

When I.M. Pei, the celebrated Chinese-American architect from New York, was selected to design a new addition for D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, the Washington Post’s architecture critic remarked it was “no doubt one of the toughest [assignments] since Michelangelo was asked to put a dome on St. Peter’s.” Pei knew it would be a difficult task to build the new gallery, but that did not deter him. This is the story of how one of Washington's most unique buildings came to be.   

Hitler's Watercolors

The Courtyard of the Old Residency in Munich, Adolf Hitler, 1914 (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1956, the Woodward & Lothrop department store in Washington DC, located at 11th and F St NW, hosted a traveling exhibit purporting to showcase the “American Dream.” Woodward & Lothrop, or “Woody’s” as it was affectionately called, was a staple in the city for over one hundred years, from the late 1800s to 1995, when it merged with another company. During the "Era of Department Stores," a period lasting from the '30s to the '70s when department stores were the main mode of shopping for the American family, Woodward & Lothrop was the King of DC. This is probably why the store felt entirely comfortable hosting the “American Dream” exhibit, and the exhibit’s main draw: four watercolors painted between 1917 and 1919 by Adolf Hitler.

U.S. Naval Torpedo Station in Alexandria, Virginia circa 1922

The Torpedo Factory Art Center: Alexandria's World War II Landmark

Sitting on the waterfront of the Potomac River, the 85,000 square foot Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria is a landmark of Northern Virginia history. Today, the building houses artist studios, galleries, art workshops, and even an archeology museum. Yet during the tumultuous years of World War II, workers produced something very different in the space — the Mark 14 submarine torpedo used by U.S. Navy personnel in the Pacific theater of the war. Over 70 years after its decommissioning as a munitions depot, the history of the Torpedo Factory is a fascinating tale of politics, faulty weapon engineering, and local spirit.

Michael Horsley's Washington of the 1980s

Homeless people sleeping at a bus stop, 14th and P St., NW, 1986. (Photo courtesy of Michael Horsley)

From 1984 to 1994 photographer Michael Horsley walked the streets of Washington, D.C., photographing the unseen and vanishing moments at a time when many inner-city neighborhoods still showed the effects of the 1968 riots. These images were tucked away in his private collection for almost 25 years until he published them on Flickr in 2010.

Horsley's Hidden Washington, D.C. collection (check it out on Flickr!) is a rare neighborhood-oriented photo archive of the nation's capital during the 1980s. In some cases, the physical landscape is almost unrecognizable today. In others, the scene is nearly the same now as it was then. Many of the photos are featured in WETA Television's documentary, Washington in the '80s.

We recently chatted with Horsley about his experiences taking the photos and his reflections on the changes he has witnessed in the years since.

How Teddy Roosevelt Brought Art to Washington

Artist James McNeill Whistler’s most famous painting is probably his portrait, Whistler’s Mother, but to Washingtonians, there is another work that captures the imagination.

Tucked away in a corner of the Freer Gallery, Whistler’s “Peacock Room” beckons people with its distinct lure. Victorian gas lamps, gilded patterns of gold, and Chinese pottery all come together to create quite a spectacle. This is not just a normal art exhibit, however. It's more of a story.

Attempted Rembrandt Heist at the Corcoran

The 145-year-old Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington's oldest private art museum, announced that it will be taken over by George Washington University and the  National Gallery of Art and cease to exist as an independent institution. That makes it a good time to look back at one of the more bizarre events in the history of art in Washington--the attempted theft in 1959 of a painting by 17th Century master Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn.

Washington has a long history of thefts of antiquities from its museums but this attempted heist was one of the stranger assaults on artwork that our city has seen.

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