At the Hirshhorn, moving around the “wheel” from one painting to another, the exercise of looking becomes one decidedly rooted in time. It’s not unlike listening to music: deep purples ground you like heavy bass chords; diaphanous yellows lighten you, trickling over the top like high notes. And they all exist in constant relation to what came before, and in anticipation of what comes after. The Washington Post, 2020

For a special one-night-only performance, the 21st Century Consort ensemble will present a selection of music inspired by Pat Steir’s iconic paintings.

Steir has been at the forefront of American painting for nearly half a century. An acclaimed abstract painter, she is best known for paintings that combine meticulous brushwork with multiple layers of drips and pours. Thirty of Steir’s paintings are currently on view at the Hirshhorn in the second-floor exhibition Pat Steir: Color Wheel.

Arrive early for a pre-performance discussion with 21st Century Consort director Christopher Kendell and composer Carlos Simon, and to view Pat Steir: Color Wheel.

We encourage you to arrive early. Ring Auditorium seating is limited. Any open seats may be released to walk-up visitors 10 minutes before the program.



5:00–5:30 pm | Come early for a pre-program discussion with 21st Century Consort Director Christopher Kendell and composer Carlos Simon
5:30-6:00 pm | Exhibition viewing of Pat Steir: Color Wheel
5:45 pm | Doors open to Ring Auditorium
6:00–8:00 pm | Performance: Water Music


Performance Lineup

Jacob Druckman | Reflection on the Nature of Water
Carlos Simon | The Rain that Falls
Tan Dun | Water Music
Kati Agocs | A la Claire Fountaine
Stella Sung | Dance of the White Lotus Under the Sliver Moon
Luciano Berio | Circles


About 21st Century Consort

Founded in 1975 as the 20th Century Consort, the group became the resident ensemble for contemporary music at the Smithsonian Institution in 1978. In its annual series, currently at historic St. Mark’s on Capitol Hill, and formerly at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Consort has presented finely balanced concerts frequently related to museum exhibitions, featuring music by living composers—often world premieres—along with twentieth-century classics. In 1990, the Consort was awarded the Smithsonian Institution’s Smithson Medal in honor of their long, successful association. Under the direction of its founder and conductor, Christopher Kendall, the Consort’s artists include principal players from the National Symphony Orchestra, along with other prominent chamber musicians from Washington, DC, and elsewhere.


Please e-mail if you would like to request ASL interpretation for this event.