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August 04, 2022

National Gallery Launches New West Building Audio Guide Incorporating Diverse and Unexpected Voices

A visitor hears from Carl Cruz, descendant of a sergeant in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, at the audio guide stop for Augustus Saint-Gaudens's "The Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial"

A visitor hears from Carl Cruz, descendant of a sergeant in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, at the audio guide stop for Augustus Saint-Gaudens's The Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial, 1900, patinated plaster, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire, X.15233.

Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art has launched a new audio guide that brings select works of art to life through the voices of diverse and unexpected special guests. Artists, an ecologist, a dancer, a housing activist, a social worker, a poet, and others reveal new ways of exploring 24 objects in the West Building, while occasional commentary from National Gallery staff adds art historical context.

For example, celebrity chef Carla Hall examines the vast array of foods in Pieter Claesz’s Still Life with Peacock Pie (1627). Broadway set designer Anna Louizos—whose past projects include In the Heights, Avenue Q, and School of Rock—explores the drama and setting of Jan Van Eyck’s The Annunciation (c. 1434/1436). Professional ballerina Tara Hutton shares the joys and hardships that reveal themselves to her in Edgar Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1878–1881).

“This fresh approach to our audio guide is an example of our mission at work,” said Kaywin Feldman, director, National Gallery of Art. “How better to welcome all people to explore and experience art, creativity, and our shared humanity than to bring outside voices into conversation with curators.”

The guide is accessible through QR codes at each tour stop, on our website, and in the National Gallery of Art app. In addition, each work of art features a verbal description track for users who are blind or have low vision.

To provide the best on-site experience possible, only works of art that are currently on view will populate the audio guide. We will add additional stops in the future. 

This updated audio guide was made possible by a grant from the Alice L. Walton Foundation.

Complete list of audio guide stops and descriptions:

201.  Jan van Eyck, The Annunciation, c. 1434/1436
Broadway set designer Anna Louizos explores the drama and setting of Van Eyck’s painting.

202. Hieronymus Bosch, Death and the Miser, c. 1485/1490
Filmmaker Jem Cohen and National Gallery of Art director Kaywin Feldman discuss the intrigue and timelessness of Bosch’s powerful painting.

203. Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Peacock Pie, 1627
Celebrity chef Carla Hall examines the vast array of foods available in Claesz’s banquet scene.

204. Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait, c. 1630
Artist Susanna Coffey discusses life as an artist and the expert details included in Leyster’s self-portrait.

205. Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, c. 1614/1616
Craig Saffoe, the National Zoo’s curator of Great Cats, explores Rubens’s depiction of lions in a key moment of drama.

206. Joseph Mallord William Turner, Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight, 1835
Ecologist Joel Fodrie from the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences and senior curator Franklin Kelly discuss Turner’s vivid depiction of industry and climate change in 19th-century England.

207. Frederic Edwin Church, Niagara, 1857
Sara Capen of the Niagara Falls Heritage Area and associate curator of American and British paintings Sarah Cash explore the hidden stories of freedom-seekers behind Church’s painting of a North American landmark.

208. John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778
Artist Yoan Capote and associate curator of American and British paintings Charles Brock discuss the emotions and histories of the transatlantic slave trade present in Copley’s dramatic scene.

209. Archibald John Motley Jr., Portrait of My Grandmother, 1922
District of Columbia Public Schools social worker Rhoda Matthews explores beauty and persistence in Motley’s intimate portrait of his grandmother.

210. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, The Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial, 1900
Carl Cruz, descendant of a sergeant in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, discusses the power of Saint-Gaudens’s depiction of one of the first military units of Black soldiers formed in the North during the Civil War and the legacies it carries for us today.

211. Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de’ Benci, c. 1474/1478
Curator and head of Italian and Spanish paintings Eve Straussman-Pflanzer explores the life and loves of the woman at the center of Da Vinci’s portrait.

212. El Greco, Laocoön, c. 1610/1614
Celebrated poet Teri Cross Davis and curator of Italian and Spanish paintings Gretchen Hirschauer discuss the humanity and emotions revealed in El Greco’s depiction of the legend of Laocoön.

213. Canaletto, The Square of Saint Mark’s, Venice, 1742/1744
Photographer Sam Youkilis and curator and head of Italian and Spanish paintings Eve Straussman-Pflanzer explore Canaletto’s monumental depiction of 18th-century Venice and how it compares to the present day.

214. Raphael, The Alba Madonna, c. 1510
Curator of Italian and Spanish paintings Gretchen Hirschauer examines the humble depiction of biblical figures in this monumental Raphael painting.

215. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Two Women at a Window, c. 1655/1660
Curator and head of Italian and Spanish paintings Eve Straussman-Pflanzer discusses the intrigue found in this eye-catching painting by Murillo.

216. Mary Cassatt, Woman with a Sunflower, c. 1905
Artist María Berrío and curatorial fellow Nikki Georgopulos discuss the relationships and symbols present in Mary Cassatt’s intimate painting.

217. Jacques-Louis David, The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812
Associate curator Aaron Wile explores the mythmaking in Jacques-Louis David’s portrayal of the emperor Napoleon.

218. Auguste Renoir, Odalisque, 1870
Novelist Laila Lalami and curator and head of French paintings Mary Morton discuss the histories and legacies surrounding Renoir’s imagined portrayal of an Algerian woman.

219. Edgar Degas, Woman Viewed from Behind (Visit to a Museum), c. 1879–1885
Protection officer Jerry Foley and Kimberly A. Jones, curator of 19th-century French paintings, discuss Degas’s painting about looking at works of art and experiencing a sense of discovery.

220. Edouard Manet, The Old Musician, 1862
Housing advocate Jesse Rabinowitz from the nonprofit Miriam’s Kitchen and curator and head of French paintings Mary Morton explore the marginalized individuals at the center of Manet’s monumental painting.

221. Hiram Powers, The Greek Slave, model 1841–1843, carved 1846
Historian Ka’mal McClarin of the National Park Service discusses the public impact of Hiram Powers’s sculpture and how it was a favorite of activist Frederick Douglass.

Senior conservator and head of object conservation Shelley Sturman delves into the details revealed by examination of the materials in this powerful 16th-century bust.

223. Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, 1878–1881
Professional ballerina Tara Hutton explores the joys and hardships behind Degas’s sculpture of a young 19th-century dancer for the Paris opera.

224. Chalice of the Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis, 2nd/1st century B.C. (cup); 1137–1140 (mounting)
Curator Alison Luchs explores the craftsmanship and beliefs surrounding this ancient stone cup.

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For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]

Chief of Communications
Anabeth Guthrie
phone: (202) 842-6804
e-mail: [email protected]

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