Touring the National Gallery of Art with Museum Hack

February 22, 2017

I've lived in the DC area long enough that my driver's license expires in July (almost seven years now) and trips to the District are still something I really enjoy. (Except when I'm on the Metro.) There's always something to see and do!

One of my favorite things is visiting the museums. I've toured the Holocaust Museum, National Archives, and the Newseum (several times) which is my favorite. However, since I'm not much of an art person, I certainly wasn't in much of a hurry to visit the National Gallery of Art.

Enter Museum Hack, a new company in DC that puts a fun spin on museum tours. In the company's own words: "this isn't your Grandma's museum tour." Well, now you have my attention! Museum Hack was gracious enough to provide tickets for me to try out a tour of the NGA and once we had a tour date set, I was eager to see what this whole new museum experience was about.

My boyfriend and I arrived to find out we were the only ones in the 2:30 time slot so we totally got a private tour. #winning Our tour guide, Will, was fantastic. He studied art through grad school and was very knowledgeable about everything, including which pieces to highlight throughout the tour. His picks were spot on and he definitely kept things interesting by telling us juicy gossip and backstories.

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We started the tour at Leonardo da Vinci's very first painting - a portrait of Ginevra de' Benci. To this day, no one knows exactly why da Vinci painted the 16 year old poet: one possibility is that her (much older) fiance had this painting commissioned. This famous piece is one of the first known 'three-quarter-view' portraits in Italian art.

Museum Hack Fact: Leonardo da Vinci was 21 when he finished this painting. It's the only one that resides outside of Europe.

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Saint Jerome, El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), Saint Jerome Painting, Museum Hack, Museum Hack National Gallery of Art Tour, NGA, DC Museums to Visit

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art Painting, NGA, Museum Hack Tour, Museum Hack National Gallery of Art Tour

Museum Hack Fact: The above painting by Whistler is one of three paintings in a series. He changed the title to “Symphony in White: No. 1” to focus on what he viewed as the painting’s true subject: the thick white paint & textures.

We didn't just stare at art on the walls, either. Throughout the tour, we played games which made the experience even more fun and interactive. My favorite game was when Will asked us to take photos of three pieces of art: one we'd steal, one we'd sell, and one we'd burn - and why we chose each. (Hypothetically of course 'cause 2 of those are illegal.) Also: I cannot say for sure, but we might've taken a quick time-out to refuel on chocolate before continuing on our learning quest. This tour just keeps getting better and better.

Lorenzo de Medici Sculpture, National Gallery of Art, NGA, DC Museums, Museum Hack Tour, Museum Hack National Gallery of Art Tour

We also spent some time learning about sculptures - mainly Degas' famous wax sculpture, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The model, a girl from the Paris Opera Ballet, is made of many different items including real human hair, linen, silk, and cotton. No one really liked this sculpture, however. Critics called it "repulsive" and "a threat to society" because of her working-class status.

Museum Hack Fact: Due to the negative response, Degas never exhibited the sculpture again. It was found in his studio following his death in 1917 (along with many other sculptures). Now, the National Gallery of Art houses the biggest collection of Degas sculptures!

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Two hours later, at the very end of the tour, we picked our favorite sculpture to pose with for a photo. (My favorite sculpture reminds me of yoga!) Museum Hack really did make the tour fun - I feel like I could've stayed longer. I really enjoyed learning so many fun facts behind the pieces and people. I'd really love to go on the Political Scandals tour next!

If you want to experience it in DC for yourself, you can view upcoming tours here. Museum Hack is also located in NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco, too. It's the perfect way to explore each city - whether you're visiting or live there!

What's your favorite museum to visit?

I was gifted two tickets c/o Museum Hack, however all opinions are my own.