An inspiring private art destination which we can all visit.
Glenstone is a large, private art destination which offers visitors experiences among stunning monumental, contemporary art and sculpture. There is breathtaking architecture – set in inspiring landscapes and it is described by experts as being among the best art destinations in the world. It is 30 to 40 minutes northwest of Washington, D.C.
Glenstone was founded by Emily Wei Rales and Mitchell P. Rales with the following mission:
We envision Glenstone not only as a place, but a state of mind created by the energy of architecture, the power of art, and the restorative qualities of nature. At the core of the museum is a collection of post-World War II art, a very personal project driven by the pursuit of iconic works that have changed the way we think about the art of our time.
The name “Glenstone” derives from two local sources: Glen Road, where the property line begins, and a type of carderock stone indigenous to the area, which is still extracted from several nearby quarries. We hope that Glenstone will always be a destination for all who seek meaningful encounters with art, architecture, and nature—for many years to come.
—Emily & Mitch Rales
Private museums have been controversial, and sometimes accused of being tax dodges for wealthy collectors who limit public visitation to the art. In 2015 Orrin Hatch launched a Senate investigation noting, “Charitable organizations have an important role in promoting good in our society,” but questioned whether “some private foundations are operating museums that offer minimal benefit to the public while enabling donors to reap substantial tax advantages.” (from the New York Times). Glenstone and other private institutions have a duty to promote the public interest, not just their billionaire benefactors. I think Glenstone meets and exceeds that goal – and we are all the beneficiaries.
Glenstone’s 300 acres of trails, meadows, Virginia forests, streams and ponds are worth a visit all by themselves.
The original galleries at Glenstone were designed by Charles Gwathmey (1938−2009) of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects.
Photo credit, Glenstone.org
The new pavilions, with 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, have rooms with a variety of dimensions dedicated to changing ‘single artist’ installations. Glenstone works with artists to customize their installations. The galleries are flooded with natural light from both windows and clerestories and the visitor gets unexpected views of the central water court. They were designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners.
Glenstone integrates art into its landscape and architecture. The combined experience is unforgettable. Jeff Koons dominates the landscape with his iconic Split-Rocker, 2000, made of stainless steel, soil, geotextile fabric, internal irrigation system, and live flowering plants. It is a towering
37 x 39 x 36 feet. It has been on view from Versailles to Rockefeller Center. You will wander among outstanding pieces by Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy and Ellsworth Kelly.
I loved FOREST (for a thousand years…), 2012 by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller – an audio installation in the woods with twenty-two loudspeakers, amplifiers, and a playback computer. Visitors follow a path deep into the woods. They begin to hear sounds in a twenty-eight-minute loop. Most settle onto a stump, close their eyes, breathe deeply and experience art.
Visit Glenstone, northwest of Washington, D.C. at 12100 Glen Road, Potomac, MD 20854. It is open Thursday–Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM with visits scheduled on the half hour until 3:00 PM. From downtown D.C., travel takes 30–45 minutes without traffic. From downtown Baltimore, travel takes 60 minutes without traffic.
Visiting Glenstone is a good news/bad news story. There is no admissions fee, but you need to make a reservation far in advance. For instance, tickets for January 2020 will be available on November 1, 2019 at 10 AM. If you arrive in the afternoon without a reservation, Glenstone will welcome you if there is room, but there is no guarantee. Reserve tickets.
You will also be admitted without a reservation if you arrive on the Montgomery County Ride On Bus. Buses on the 301 route make several scheduled daily stops at Glenstone. A full schedule and route is available at www.rideonbus.com. Route 301 Schedule.
For those of you in the New York area, Storm King Art Center offers a similar ‘destination art’ experience.