While I am a big fan of museums in Washington, DC, I have a particularly hard time appreciating art galleries. Art galleries notoriously don’t provide a lot of context. Pieces usually feature a tiny card limited to just the artist’s name. So when Museum Hack invited us to their tour at the National Gallery of Art promising a twist on the traditional gallery tour, we jumped at the chance.
Museum Hack currently offers two tours: The Un-Highlights Tour and The Political Scandals Tour. Without hesitation, we chose The Political Scandals Tour, hoping for a humorous perspective on government shenanigans. Our tour began with a brief history of the gallery. The National Gallery of Art is the largest non-Smithsonian museum on the National Mall. It is also home to portraits and art with a more scandalous political backstory than we ever realized. Even the location serves as the scene of a presidential assassination, and we’re not talking about the one at Ford’s Theatre only half a mile away. However, the highlight of our tour was our guide Hannah. She brought so much knowledge and passion for art to the tour while effortlessly weaving stories together. She also knew many of the people working at the gallery which provided a warm and inviting feel.
Without giving too much of the tour away, one of our favorite parts was bringing a painting to life. Before the internet, a popular social game was to reenact famous portraits. Similar to charades, guests would try to explain a portrait or mimic one they had seen. After telling us the history of the painting, Hannah asked us to bring the portrait to life. Our tour group clearly mastered this party game on the first try as you can see in our 21st century cell phone portrait below. Overall, the tour was just as funny as we were expecting but it is worth noting that the stories were not limited to American history. Hannah covered a wide variety of scandals from different time periods and parts of the world.
As part of the two hour tour, each person in our group campaigned for president. We selected slogans, were given bandannas to show our pride, selected a “running mate” (a portrait in the gallery), and played games to win delegate votes. The games provided a little break in between stories as we navigated the gallery. By the end of the tour, I won the Presidential race with a tie breaking game of rock, paper, scissors. Everyone gets to keep their bandanna and a postcard of a portrait in the gallery. As President, I also received American themed sunglasses.
Museum Hack is currently in four cities: New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, DC. They are available for public and private tours, bachelorette parties, and company events. Check out their current tours and watch for new ones!
A great museum tour
The National Gallery of Art
6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565
Archives (green, yellow) or Judiciary Square (red)