National Gallery of Art – East Building is an Instagramer’s Dream

Our friends from Frederick came to town on a rainy Saturday for a day of touristing. The sky was spitting rain but we didn’t let that stop us from engaging on a self guided monument tour.  Our tour led us to the Sculpture Garden where we took in the larger than life outdoor art and enormous fountain. By this point, the dreary weather was getting to us. So, we headed inside the National Gallery of Art – East Building to continue our contemporary art adventure.

The National Gallery of Art – East Buildings should not to be confused with the National Gallery of Art next door. The main building (we went there with Museum Hack) is home to a wide range of American and European art while the East Building is home to contemporary art. Neither building is part of the Smithsonian but they do share space on the National Mall with some of the other Smithsonian museums. 

Related: Can’t Miss Art Exhibits to Kick-off 2020

So, What’s Cool to See in the National Gallery of Art – East Building? 

Once inside the gorgeous, open lobby we realized this is the home of the giant blue rooster. This guy has been the star of many of my friends’ Instagram feeds lately. We immediately rushed to the terrace to take a picture with him. This is my favorite thing about the contemporary art galleries in the city. The art makes you want to strike a pose with it or caption it with your own sassy commentary. Some of our other favorite pieces include:

Giant blue rooster

Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch, 2013 – Up on the terrace, we found the giant blue rooster. You can get up close to so many pieces in the gallery which makes the whole experience feel a little more personal.

Large geometric shapes

Circle I, II, III by David Smith, 1962. The open lobby space of the gallery is filled with larger than life sculptures. It feels a lot like an indoor sculpture garden and makes great backdrops for pictures.

Wire art of a fish

Funny Fish by Alexander Calder, 1948. Filled with wire art, this room is captivating but I particularly enjoyed the colorful fish. I wish I had an entire wall in my house filled with an ocean of these fish.

Painting of Swinging Girl

Girl on a Swing by Cecily Brown, 2004 – This is my favorite painting in the gallery. It took a moment for my eyes to find the girl on the swing. But once I did, the blurred colors around her reminded me of how the world looks when I’m swinging. To me, it perfectly captures the chaos and freedom of swinging fast on a swing set.

Plan Your Trip

Estimated time to see the entire museum: 1-1.5 hours

Where: 150 4th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Closest Metro Stop: Smithsonian (orange, blue, silver) or Archives (green, yellow)

Cost: Free

Food: Head over to Oyamel for Mexican food or Rasika for Indian food in nearby Chinatown. Also check out our list of 10 Places to Eat Near the National Mall

While You’re in the Neighborhood: Head next door to the main National Gallery of Art building to see American and European Art. You can also head across the mall to the Hirshhorn Museum for more contemporary Art. The Air and Space Museum and American Indian Museum are also close by. 


Welcome City Explorer!

Hi there! I'm Kelley and I love exploring new cities. I want this blog to help you plan your next trip to Washington, DC and the surrounding areas. Get ready to explore the sites, eat great food, and navigate with ease.