Hirshhorn Breaks Ground on Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Revitalized Sculpture Garden

More Accessible, Mission-Forward Design Will Welcome Larger Audiences, Display More Modern and Contemporary Artwork on the National Mall
November 16, 2022
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Group of people each pose with shovels in their hands, smiling ahead

Emcee Stephanie Ruhle, MSNBC host; artist Jeff Koons, Dan Sallick, chair of the Hirshhorn Board of Trustees; Steve Case, Chair, Smithsonian Board of Regents; Melissa Chiu, director, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; first lady Dr. Jill Biden; Hiroshi Sugimoto, artist and architect of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden revitalization, artists Adam Pendleton and Laurie Anderson at the Nov. 16 groundbreaking on the National Mall.

Courtesy of the Hirshhorn. Photo by Tony Powell.

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden broke ground today, Nov. 16, on artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto’s revitalized Sculpture Garden. First Lady Jill Biden, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, Smithsonian Board of Regents Chair Steve Case, artist-architect Hiroshi Sugimoto and Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu hosted the artist-led ceremony. 

The groundbreaking recognized the layered history of the Smithsonian’s only outdoor art gallery embedded in the National Mall. Influential contemporary artists including Laurie Anderson, Jeff Koons and Adam Pendleton joined Smithsonian, Hirshhorn and city leadership at this transformational moment for the national museum of modern and contemporary art. 

 “By preparing the Hirshhorn campus for the 21st century, we are answering our mandate to responsibly steward the national collection and engage the broadest possible audience,” Chiu said. “We are responsibly fortifying the Sculpture Garden and adding essential flexibility for current and future visitors, artists and scholars. We are honored to work closely with Hiroshi Sugimoto, who has conceived a dedicated outdoor space for encounters with art as only an artist can.”

The groundbreaking is a landmark occasion in the Hirshhorn’s almost 50-year history, one that will remake the campus of the nation’s modern art museum. Following the groundbreaking, the museum will deinstall the sculpture in the garden and relocated them to the museum’s plaza. The garden will then close in spring 2023 for what is expected to be a two-year project. 

“Our campus is our hardware,” Chiu said. “This revitalization necessitates we also update our software: the language and platforms we use to engage, captivate and expand our global audience. We must meet them where they are: with us on the National Mall or online.”

The groundbreaking ceremony follows the museum’s announcement of pop superstar J Balvin’s appointment as its first cultural ambassador and the release of its first collection book in almost a half-century. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: The Collection is a technology-powered volume that uses the Hirshhorn’s pioneering image-recognition software—Hirshhorn Eye (Hi for short)—to activate artworks within the book and share original videos directly to readers’ smartphones. The Hirshhorn has also worked closely with the Smithsonian Channel to support a new, nonfiction series, The Exhibit, filmed at the museum, that chronicles emerging artists’ responses to creative prompts inspired by the Hirshhorn permanent collection and exhibitions. 

About the Hirshhorn Collection 

The Hirshhorn’s permanent collection includes leading artists from the late 19th century to the present day and comprises paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new-media works. The Hirshhorn has one of the most comprehensive collections of modern sculpture in the world, with many examples on view indoors and in the Sculpture Garden.

An active global acquisitions program continually adds work to the Hirshhorn collection in all media, with an emphasis on new work and the work of artists exhibiting at and collaborating with the museum. Artists such as Ai Weiwei, Mark Bradford, David Hammons, Mona Hatoum, Robert Irwin, Yoko Ono, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, Susan Philipsz, Adrian Piper, Gerhard Richter, Doris Salcedo and Rachel Whiteread are represented by major works. Global modernism is also a collecting focus, and recent additions include works by Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Natsuyuki Nakanishi and Park Seo-bo. African American artists recently entering the collection include Charles Gaines, Arthur Jafa, Jennie C. Jones, Senga Nengudi, Sondra Perry and Henry Taylor.

About the Hirshhorn 

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar programs on the art of our time—free to all. The museum and its outdoor sculpture garden are open daily (except Dec. 25), 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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Kate Gibbs

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