For a great museum that’s off the beaten path of Washington, D.C.’s mall, look no further than the Phillips Collection, the oldest museum of modern art in the U.S. (opened in 1921).
Housed in founder Duncan Phillips’s 1897 home in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, the setting is intimate; the venue is outstanding for viewing the American and European impressionist and modern art on display. On the walls you’ll find Klee, Renoir, Rothko, and Whistler, among many esteemed others. With more than 2,500 artifacts in the collection, the museum expanded in 2006 to accommodate its impressive holdings and offer more on-view to the visitor. The expansion includes a new gallery designated for post-1950s works, a large auditorium for public programs, and an outdoor courtyard.
Programming is rich and popular with locals and visitors. Ongoing programs include the Sunday concerts, held weekly from October through May and featuring intimate performances from solo pianists to chamber ensembles. Phillips was known for collecting extensive compilations from artists he especially favored. These compilations are known by the museum as “collection units” and offer the visitor a unique experience unlike at any other modern art museum; you can peruse the Rothko room, which houses Rothko’s work exclusively, and is designed in accordance with both the artist’s and Phillips’ original aesthetic preference and intention for the work.
The Phillips Collection Information
- Public Transportation: Very good (easily reachable by the Metro Red Line)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday (extended hours) 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Monday
- Admission: Free (donations accepted). Special exhibitions $12, students and seniors (62+) $10
- Tours: The Phillips Collection offers one-hour guided tours of special exhibitions. Tours are given by professionally trained staff and are presented in the spirit of the museum’s tradition, described by Duncan Phillips as a “joy-giving, life-enhancing influence, assisting people to see beautifully as true artists see.” Tours are available on the following schedule: Tuesday–Friday 10 and 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3 p.m., and Thursday evenings at 6:30 p.m. The prices for tours are adults $15, students and seniors (62+) $13
- Membership: Individual membership is $60 annually and includes unlimited free admission to the permanent collection and all special exhibitions, two Member-for-a-Day guest passes, plus members-only preview days. Also included is free admission to the acclaimed Sunday Concerts and Thursday Phillips After 5 parties
- Other Benefits: Associate membership ($175/annually) gets you reciprocal admission to other museums, plus special visiting privileges and invites to special opening parties.