The Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden welcomes visitors at all levels of understanding to experience the transformative power of contemporary art. The museum collects, preserves, and presents international modern and contemporary art in all media, distinguished by in-depth holdings of major artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. By collaborating with artists on exhibitions, programs, and special projects, the Hirshhorn provides an important national platform in Washington, DC for the vision and voices of artists. Henry Moore, Willem de Kooning, Auguste Rodin and Alexander Calder are featured artists.
The Hirshhorn Museum’s founding donor, Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899–1981) donated his collection of over 6,000 pieces of modern art to the museum in 1966.
Hirshhorn immigrated to New York from Latvia when he was eight years old. When he was eighteen, Hirshhorn acquired his first works of art: two etchings by the sixteenth-century German artist Albrecht Dürer, purchased for $75 each. This acquisition marked the beginning of a lifelong passion for collecting art, facilitated by an innate talent for making money.
In the late 1940s, Hirshhorn’s mining investments in uranium-rich Canadian land cemented his status as a wealthy man. Hirshhorn eventually turned his attention to the art of contemporary masters, becoming an avid collector of works by living painters such as Milton Avery, Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, Edward Hopper, Larry Rivers, and Raphael Soyer.
He socialized with many of these artists and assisted them when he could. For example, Hirshhorn helped Willem de Kooning, a good friend, finance the construction of a Long Island studio in exchange for works of art.
The breadth of Hirshhorn’s sculpture collection was unknown to the general public until 1962, when selected works were loaned to the Guggenheim Museum in New York for a major exhibition.
Several international museums and governments courted the intrepid collector, but he ultimately bequeathed his comprehensive modern art holdings to the Smithsonian Institution. An Act of Congress established the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1966.
The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (closed December 25) and is located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street SW, Washington D.C. Admission is free.