Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman. After a brief six year sojourn, he’s back! You can see Jeff’s previous columns here.
Ed. Note: Thanks to commenters for clarifying public transit options – “Montgomery County Ride-On Bus 301 stops at Glenstone except on early morning trips before Glenstone is open.”
Glenstone is worth the journey (roughly 30 minutes from downtown D.C.) if you want to experience Smithsonian-level art and architecture, in a spectacular natural setting, at Smithsonian prices (free). You must plan far in advance (visiting days are Thursday through Sunday, and tickets for July will be released on May 1st at 10:00 A.M. … I recommend logging on shortly thereafter), but it’s well worth it. The art collection includes recognizable works from many of the most prominent contemporary artists – Warhol, Basquiat, Rothko, Jenny Holzer, Pollack, Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, LeWitt, Ellsworth Kelly, Duchamp, De Kooning, Oldenburg, Hirst, Kusama, Bourgeois, Calder, Haring, and on and on – but also features some really interesting pieces from relatively obscure artists. And the art collection is far from the only highlight, as the grounds, the staff, and in particular several dramatic outdoor works of art make any visit memorable and distinguishable from any other art viewing experience.
If you go, plan on eating in the cafe, which is beautifully-situated, reasonable, and very tasty. Budget at least two hours, ideally three (or more if you eat lunch), to see the entire collection and grounds. And do not miss the following: outdoors, Andy Goldsworthy’s Clay Houses, the FOREST (for a thousand years …) sound exhibit, and in particular Jeff Koons’ spectacular Split-Rocker, and indoors, Lygia Pape’s Book of Time, Roni Horn’s Water Double, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, David Hammons’ How Ya Like me Now?, Michael Heizer’s Collapse, and especially Robert Gober’s Untitled (ask a docent how to find it). Speaking of docents, they are everywhere, and all of them are highly knowledgeable art historians who complete a two year fellowship on-site. If you miss the opportunity to speak with them about the art, in particular some of the more inscrutable pieces, you will regret it.
A few caveats: no kids (other than babes-in-arms) allowed, which will delight some visitors and annoy others. There is no way to avoid a significant amount of walking, and the site is not especially accessible to anyone with mobility issues. Photographs are only permitted outdoors (where, I note, there are plenty of Instagram-friendly locations). And the only way to get to Glenstone is by car. But the drive itself is quite beautiful.