Smithsonian American Art Museum

formerly named

National Museum of American Art

Washington, D.C.



Over 500 "Treasures to Go" to 70 Museums Nationwide


When the Smithsonian's American Art Museum began planning for three years of renovation to start in 2000, it was relatively easy to figure out what to do with desks, computers, and phones. But what do you do with the greatest collection of American art in the world?

"Storing treasures that attract more than half a million visitors each year was not an option the staff wanted to consider," said Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. Instead, in January, 2000 the museum is launching what is perhaps the most ambitious art tour ever, sharing with the American people over 500 of its finest treasures at more than 70 museums. "Treasures to Go" will feature eight thematic exhibitions of paintings and sculptures.

The goal of "Treasures to Go" is to stimulate interest in American art among new audiences as well as art lovers by touring the nation's foremost American art collection to communities across the country. These shows will make stops from early 2000 through 2002 from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, from Miami to Dallas to Los Angeles. The breadth of the itinerary reflects a determination to bring the finest works of American art directly to the American people.

"These are some of our greatest masterworks, which we rarely lend," commented Broun. "We're pleased to work with museums across the country to share them with everyone."

The Principal Financial Group, a global insurance and financial services company, is the museum's partner in efforts to increase national visibility for the tour and for the museum. The Principal has provided funding for a variety of public relations initiatives and marketing services. International Management Group (IMG), a multinational marketing and management agency, assisted in creating the partnership between the American Art Museum and The Principal.

To generate public awareness of American art and "Treasures to Go," the museum will produce several national cable television specials and a syndicated program for broadcast on a network affiliate in each city visited by the tour. Public relations, advertising, and media partnerships with national publications will highlight aspects of the tour. Gift books, posters, educational materials on American art, special events, and a new section on the museum's award-winning web site are also planned. The museum's partnership with The Principal Financial Group supports these activities.

The paintings and sculptures in "Treasures to Go" cover eight themes:

Young America traces the country's transformation from colonies to nationhood through great portraits by John Singleton Copley , Charles Willson Peale, and Gilbert Charles Stuart as well as landscapes and scenes of early America.
Lure of the West includes portraits of Native Americans by George Catlin, western subjects by Frederic Remington and Albert Bierstadt , and works from the Taos School. (left: Charles Bird King, Young Omahaw...)
American Impressionism presents canvases full of light and color by such artists as Childe Hassam, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, John Henry Twachtman, and Thomas W. Dewing
The Gilded Age highlights John Singer Sargent, Abbott Handerson Thayer , and others who brought a new sophistication and elegance to American art in the decades before World War I. (left: Abbot H. Thayer, Angel)
Scenes of American Life explores the 20th century, from the excitement of New York and the Roaring Twenties through the Depression and postwar period, in works by Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, and Paul Cadmus. (left: Edward Hopper: Cape Cod Morning)
Modernism and Abstraction shows radical transformations of American art in the 20th century by Georgia O'Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Stuart Davis, and Franz Kline. (left: Stuart Davis, International Surface No. 1)
Contemporary Folk Art showcases self-taught artists of the past 40 years such as Thornton Dial, Sr., Howard Finster, and William Hawkins, whose ingenuity, wit, and reverence were often developed in isolation or in small communities across the country. (William H. Johnson, Early Morning Work)
Arte Latino celebrates the vitality of Latino art traditions and innovations, from the 18th through the 20th centuries, represented by Carlos Alfonzo, Amalia Mesa-Bains, and Jesús Bautista Moroles.


The Smithsonian's American art collection began with gifts of art donated to the federal government in 1829 and has evolved into the world's most important museum of American art, with holdings of approximately 38,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, folk-art objects, and 20th-century crafts. While its main building, the Old Patent Office, is closed for renovations from January 3, 2000 through 2002, the museum will continue a full program of craft exhibitions at its Renwick Gallery, located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W., Washington, D.C.


Read more about Smithsonian American Art Museum in the Resource Library

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/18/10

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