Like the nation we serve, the National Gallery of Art has endured two tumultuous and challenging years marked by a global pandemic. We confronted temporary closures of our galleries, the postponement of long-awaited exhibitions, and a curtailment of our onsite programs, tours, and lectures.
But this report tells a story of a museum that persevered and innovated. Through many challenges, the Gallery’s powerful mission and vision for the future, matched with a talented and dedicated staff and generous and patriotic supporters, helped us continue our vital service to the nation. To further serve and reflect the nation, we have continued to actively collect works of art that meet the highest standard of excellence. Among the many outstanding works acquired this year are the National Gallery’s first painting by Faith Ringgold, its first work by Edward Mitchell Bannister, and its first sculpture by Christopher Wool.
Extending the reach of our collections and exhibitions, the Gallery presented new digital content including two-minute video tours, a redesigned YouTube channel, and the podcast Sound Thoughts on Art. We reimagined our popular educational lesson plans to serve teachers working with remote classrooms and included art activities to support students’ emotional wellness. Our scholarly lectures engaged large audiences in a virtual format. A particular highlight was the John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art and Community Celebration held in honor of Alma Thomas. Former First Lady Michelle Obama introduced the multi-day, multi-channel event that highlighted the lifelong creative practice of the pioneering DC artist.
Our engaging exhibitions, adjusted by scheduling challenges, carried on with stunning presentations of Degas at the Opéra; True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe, 1780–1870; Raphael and His Circle; and Lynda Benglis. We also enlivened spaces in unexpected ways with three temporary East Building installations by contemporary artists Kay Rosen, Sarah Cain, and Avish Khebrehzadeh.
With immense gratitude to our public partners in Congress and the administration, we continued progress on the Master Facilities Plan, focused now on the renovation of our magnificent East Building. Through many significant gifts from private citizens, we strengthened, deepened, and expanded our collection, working toward our goal of making it as excellent and richly diverse as the country we represent.
We added several new National Gallery leaders, including Deputy Director Eric Motley; Carmen Ramos, the chief curatorial and conservation officer; and the museum’s first-ever chief diversity, inclusion, and belonging officer and EEO director, Mikka Gee Conway. These new leaders alongside all our staff will shape the Gallery’s future and support the strategic priorities that will focus our activities through 2023.
Together we strive to reflect and attract the nation, to become the nation’s primary resource for art and creativity, to provide an audience-focused experience, and to operate a sustainable and equitable museum. Emerging from years of turbulence, these priorities are a steady framework for achieving the National Gallery’s bold vision of being a museum that is of the nation and for all the people. I am proud of the resilience of our museum and grateful for the generosity of our country.
Eight decades after the National Gallery’s founding, this gift to the nation continues to give as we live, dwell, and grow with it. In a real and tangible way, every visitor to the National Gallery helps shape how the gift grows, by interacting with our art, programs, and scholarship, and taking that inspiration back into the world. This spark was the gift of Andrew Mellon and the Founding Benefactors, and it is the gift that we, as stewards of the National Gallery, pass along to the American people.