Located in the old patent house building on eighth and F street, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is three floors of oil paintings, sculptures, photographs and other works of art. SAAM is home to the nation’s first American Art collection. The lobby connects to an enclosed court yard that has a small cafe that sells pastries, ice cream, drinks, warm food, and contains a large salad bar. There is a lot of seating and many plants that give the area an outdoor feel.
On the first floor, there are different color rooms and the color of the room separates the the types of art. The yellow room is home to several paintings of landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Central Park.
The teal room displays a lot of portraits and paintings of groups of people.
Paintings of American life and American history are located in the purple room. The most interesting part of the first floor is hidden in the back, since there are a few exclusive art works back there that are worth seeing. There are a lot of sculptures made of unusual materials such as bottle caps, mirrors and wood. There is an intricate display of art that was created over a 14 year span by James Hampton that is made out of gold and silver aluminum foil, paper, plastic, wood furniture and glass. The final room on the first floor is Irving Penn’s Beyond Beauty photo exhibit. The photographs are of everyday objects that have an abnormal twist, like a delicious snack with a tiny fly or a model with smudged paint on her face.
Paintings of ex- United States presidents and other historic Americans fills the second floor.
The top floor is definitely the main attraction. A spiral staircase leads to incredible moldings, decorative tiles and colorful stained glass windows. There are also several couches here so people can take a break while admiring the works of art.
The third floor holds more modern looking art pieces that use more tech and fabrics to create these mind-opening works of art. The most technologically advanced piece is a giant sculpture mounted on a wall. Mounted on the wall are colorful lights outlining the 50 states and in each state are small, mini TVs and playing on each TV is a recording of an important event that took place in each state. For example, in the state of Virginia there is are videos of the Luray Caverns and in California there are videos of dancers and Hollywood.
A few of the other pieces include a Colorful acrylic and aluminum on a canvas sheet swing made by Sam Gilliam, sculptures carved from stone and a video that is a mashup of nature videos and sound effects.
SAAM is also home to an magnificent Pablo Picasso exhibit and a large pottery collection.
SAAM is located in Washington, D.C. and gets the most busy in the early afternoon around 3 p.m., so be sure to get there early. There is also limited parking and taking the metro would be the best option.