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Forty Years of Exhibitions: A Baker’s Dozen Memorable Shows

Eric Denker, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. I. M. Pei’s majestic East Building opened in June of 1978 with the express purpose of providing space for both the National Gallery’s rapidly expanding collection of modern art and as a venue for special exhibitions. The East Building has since hosted close to 250 exhibitions of artistic masterpieces from around the world. From the opening exhibition, The Splendor of Dresden: Five Centuries of Art Collecting, through the four floors devoted to Rodin Rediscovered, from The Treasure Houses of Britain to Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, from Art Nouveau, 1890–1914 to Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l’Oeil Painting, these memorable exhibitions have left an indelible mark on the cultural life of the nation’s capital. This lecture celebrating the 40th anniversary of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, presented by Eric Denker, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art, on August 12, 2018, describes some of the most significant East Building shows in the context of the Gallery’s ongoing exhibition program.