National Gallery Sculpture Garden reopens

Peggy McGlone

THE WASHINGTON POST – The National Gallery of Art re-opened its six-acre Sculpture Garden to visitors last Saturday, marking the first step of a multiphase comeback from the museum’s coronavirus closure.

The second phase, with a date still undetermined, will include the opening of the ground floor of the West Building. The East Building will remain closed for several months to prepare for a major renovation.

That effort started on June 3, when the museum’s beloved Alexander Calder mobile – the 920-pound kinetic sculpture of red, black and blue geometric shapes that fills the atrium of the IM Pei building – floated down from the angular skylights to the marble floor, where more than a dozen museum workers had gathered to catch it and carefully take it apart.

The de-installation, which is necessary because of roof repairs, represented an important turning point in the museum’s re-emergence, as it was the first time a large group of employees gathered for a project.

“Just arriving at the gallery and seeing so many people there, a tiny fraction of the staff, but my energy level went way up. It was so joyful to be with our team,” National Gallery Director Kaywin Feldman said. “And we’re excited to welcome people back, and fulfilling our mission to the nation.”

The gallery’s reopening will be slow and methodical, Feldman said.

“The health and safety of our staff, visitors and volunteers is foremost, is the most important part of the plan,” she said. “We’ve seen from our colleagues around the world that it is possible to reopen in modified form. We are the National Gallery. We have a responsibility. We owe it to the taxpayers and the people of the nation to be open.”

The Sculpture Garden, with its 21 modern and contemporary works, will open with shorter hours to allow for extra cleaning. There will be one entrance gate and one exit gate, and staff will limit the number of visitors to 271.

Visitors ages two and older will be required to wear face coverings and will be encouraged to practise social distancing.

Sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein at the Sculpture Garden. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST