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    The Andrew W. Mellon Memorial Fountain with the West Building in the background.

    President’s Foreword

    2022 Annual Report


    Mitchell P. Rales, President

    The recently restored skylight of the East Building Atrium soars over crowds of visitors each day, illuminating the impressive space with light levels unseen in the building since it first opened to the public nearly 45 years ago. Resplendent in this clear light, the Atrium—like the museum itself—is a place to be and a place to come together. This purpose was palpable as visitors eagerly returned in greater and greater numbers to the National Gallery of Art this fiscal year, craving community, tranquility, and a springboard for their curiosity.

    Drawn by vibrant programs, including after-hours events such as Jazz in the Garden and National Gallery Nights, scores of visitors made the National Gallery the most popular art museum in the United States in 2022. The museum’s virtual gathering places thrived as well. Website visits grew from nearly 8 million last fiscal year to more than 13 million in FY 2022, while our social media audience has risen steadily.

    Outstanding programs that have served the public for many years and new offerings that continue to attract diverse audiences are possible because of the generosity of private donors, while the inimitable buildings that host these visitors from near and far are maintained with the crucial support of federal budget funds. There is a special alchemy to this enduring and effective partnership between the private individuals and foundations that contribute to key programs and acquisitions, and the federal government that provides indispensable funds for core operations. We are grateful to all who heed the patriotic call of the founders of the National Gallery to sustain this singular institution of art and culture for all the people. The trustees join me in thanking the President and the Congress of the United States for their steadfast support.

    The phenomenal growth of our audiences is a strong endorsement of the work that staff and leadership have undertaken these past few years to put the visitor at the center of all that we do. Understanding the diverse needs of our audiences is paramount to creating an inclusive and meaningful experience for all visitors. Accordingly, we have a new department devoted to visitor experience and evaluation that centers the importance of the visitor in our work. Within the executive leadership team, Luis Baquedano became the National Gallery’s 11th secretary and general counsel in September, succeeding Nancy Breuer, who retired in the summer of 2022.

    On behalf of the trustees, I welcome Indra Nooyi to the National Gallery. Indra joined the board at the beginning of this fiscal year, and she brings with her decades of leadership and philanthropic experience. I also extend our sincere gratitude to Sharon Rockefeller for shepherding the National Gallery through key moments in its history, including completion of the 75th anniversary endowment campaign and a major renovation and expansion of the East Building. With Sharon’s retirement, philanthropist and business leader David Rubenstein was elected as chairman. We thank him for his continued service and leadership in this new role.

    The National Gallery is deeply grateful to have received an exceptional gift from the family of Victoria Sant. The Victoria P. Sant Fund for Women Artists was given in loving memory of Vicki, the first woman president of the National Gallery and a member of the Board of Trustees for 15 years. Enhancing the permanent collection and the diverse stories that art can tell was a focus of several remarkable gifts this fiscal year from the Ford Foundation and an anonymous donor in memory of Montana Walker Strauss, among others. The significant gifts that came from the estates of Neal Turtell and Helen Lee Henderson demonstrate that a passion for art and culture coupled with a dedication to public service can leave an enduring mark on the nation’s art museum.

    This year, we also mourn the loss of Clarice Smith and Virginia Dwan. For more than 50 years, Clarice and her husband, Robert H. Smith, were deeply involved with the National Gallery, providing support ranging from monumental gifts of art and funding conservation initiatives to leading the museum board and spearheading the development of several donor groups. Virginia Dwan’s generosity to the nation was realized in gifts to the nation’s art collection over the course of 30 years. A legendary arts patron, Virginia had an immeasurable impact on the history of the art of the 1960s and 1970s.

    Immersed in the revived light of the Atrium, we have been given a precious gift—the rare chance to observe our surroundings anew. Across the museum, we are excited to meet the challenges of the day and of the future with fresh ideas, incorporating new voices and deepening the stories that we tell through art.


    Mitchell P. Rales