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Located about three blocks from downtown Washington by car, the Glenstone Museum is the largest private museum of contemporary art in the United States. But it is not its size that makes it special, if not its surroundings. The museum is located in the middle of nature, in a 93-hectare park, with valleys, meadows, streams and forests. The works are exhibited in galleries perfectly integrated into the landscape, especially blocks of rough concrete in different colors depending on the different times of the year when they were cast. Another notable feature: the light that illuminates the works is completely natural in Glenstone, thanks in part to the glass corridors between the galleries and the skylights in the ceiling.
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The idea for the Glenstone Museum originated in the billionaire Mitchell Rales and his wife Emily Wei Rales, who is a recognized expert in the art world and is the curator of the museum. Together, the couple bought the land in the town of Potomac, Maryland, in 1986 with the idea of building a house there, before a helicopter crash shuffled the cards. After surviving the tragedy, the billionaire became a philanthropist and decided to found his own museum. This is how Glenstone’s first building opened in 2006. Subsequently, several expansions between 2013 and 2018 have given it the title of the largest private contemporary art museum in the country.
The couple has now amassed a collection of around 1,300 works by post-war artists from around the world. Thus, at the Glenstone Museum we can discover a large sculpture in woven metal suspended from the ceiling, signed Ruth Asawa, a Californian artist daughter of Japanese immigrants; but also a horizontal abstract painting by Mark Rothko or even works by African-American artists, such as David Hammons and his portrait of blond, blue-eyed Jesse Jackson. Outside, spaces specially designed for sculptures hold, for example, a gigantic metallic labyrinth by Richard Serra. In the forest, you can also sit on pieces of the trunk placed as stools between the trees to listen to a sound installation that immerses you in the sounds of the century: war, industry, the movements of the crowd…
Sebastien Berriotcorrespondent for France Culture in Washington, describes to us at Arnaud Laporte’s microphone this very special museum.