Skip to content

Visual Statement

Large Outdoor Hirshhorn Exhibit Part of Museum’s 30th Anniversary

Giving the public a hand with understanding modern art has reached new heights.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden unveiled a 34-foot photograph of a hand Tuesday on the National Mall.

The billboard-sized piece of art by Felix Gonzalez-Torres is the first installment of a public art project coordinated by several area museums.

Crews began installing the black-and-white photograph around 9 a.m. By 1:15 p.m. the work was in full display for passersby.

One women observing the art reflected on the meaning of the piece, which hangs above the museum’s entrance.

“It looks like someone is reaching out either to give someone something or maybe for help,” said Betty Lent, who made a point to stop by the museum during her visit from New Hampshire. “I think if I saw them around the city I might start to wonder what it … could be an advertisement for.”

Gonzalez-Torres, who died in 1996, intended the piece to be displayed in large sizes and in multiple locations, said Olga Viso, the Hirshhorn’s curator of contemporary art.

“The hand brings out a number of meanings — welcome, reaching out, homelessness, maybe reaching for help,” she said. “Art’s meaning can change with its context. We’re hoping people see it and realize it’s about art.”

In the next few months the same image will be displayed outside the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Gallery of Art and at several street locations in the District, Virginia and Maryland.

Seeing the images repeated throughout the area is part of a “silent campaign,” as Viso described it, to increase awareness of modern art and the different capacities for display.

“It’s really meant to be the power of the visual image,” she said.

Gonzalez-Torres created the piece “Untitled (for Jeff)” in 1992. It was acquired by the Hirshhorn in 1995 but had not been displayed until now. Gonzalez-Torres was a Cuban-born artist who grew up in Puerto Rico and lived and worked in New York in the 1980s and 1990s.

He focused on artwork that was accessible to the public and invited participation. In one project, he invited viewers to eat the candy used for sculptures.

The Hirshhorn is also marking its 30th anniversary with a renewed dedication to the museum’s collections. The anniversary celebration will include a new sculpture, art work displays in the lobby, and the second floor will house works from the permanent collection rather than rotating exhibits.

Recent Stories

Strange things are afoot at the Capitol

Photos of the week ending May 24, 2024

Getting down on the Senate floor — Congressional Hits and Misses

US-China tech race will determine values that shape the future

What’s at stake in Texas runoff elections on Tuesday

Democrats decry ‘very, very harmful’ riders in Legislative Branch bill