Director of the National Gallery of Art talks about his favorite D.C. spots
1. THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
This choice is complicated. I enjoy visiting our Winslow Homers in the American galleries, but then again our French galleries hold one of the greatest collections of impressionism in the world. And the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in America resides in our Italian Renaissance galleries. The Vermeers in our Northern Baroquegalleries are magical. For a real change of pace I head out to the Sculpture Garden.
2. THE CORCORAN GALLERY OF ART
Fabulous 19th-century American paintings – Frederic Church’s Niagara among them – are housed in one of America’s premier Beaux Arts buildings.
3. CAPITAL CRESCENT BIKE TRAIL
Most any time of year, except during blizzards, a ride into Maryland on the Capital Crescent Trail along the Potomac is re energizing and relaxing. Somehow it seems more beautiful coming down as opposed to pedaling up.
4 & 5. MARCEL’S, 2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, and the 1789 RESTAURANT PUB, 1226, 36th Street NW
Both establishments have wonderful food and an ambiance in which one can actually have a conversation instead of trying to read lips. The 1789 is so Anglophilic it rivals the British ambassador’s residence in atmosphere, if not design.
6. THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION
I can’t help it, I’m a museum junkie, and this is one of Washington’s treasures. It still has the elegant air of a “house museum” and being there reminds one of visiting a private collection. The works of modern art are of the highest quality but its signature work is Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party.
7. THE NATIONAL MALL
The magisterial front lawn of the United States, one of the most extraordinarily beautiful urban spaces in the world, has perhaps been loved too much. A program to restore and refurbish the Mall is beginning to have traction, thanks to Congressional support and new initiatives by the National Park Service.
8. THE FREER AND SACKLER GALLERIES
Back to museums – I can’t help myself! Whistler’s Peacock Room at the Freer (which also has superb Asian collections) is one of the most unique places in the city – the ambiance, or environment, painted by one of our most intriguing and eccentric aesthetes, is an absolute delight.
9. THE NATIONAL ARBORETUM
Sequestered off New York Avenue NE, it gets passed by too many people leaving Washington – a big mistake. Spring and fall are mesmerizingly beautiful and there is a miniature world to study in the acclaimed bonsai collection.