First lady Jill Biden, Smithsonian Staff, and artists at a groundbreaking

November 16, 2022

Hirshhorn Breaks Ground on Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Revitalized Sculpture Garden
More Accessible, Mission-Forward Design Will Welcome Larger Audiences, Display More Modern and Contemporary Artwork on the National Mall

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden broke ground today, Nov. 16, on artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto’s revitalized Sculpture Garden. First Lady Jill Biden, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, Chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents Chair Steve Case, artist-architect Hiroshi Sugimoto and Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu hosted the artist-led ceremony.

The program acknowledged the contributions of Lady Bird Johnson, who played an integral role in securing Joseph H. Hirshhorn’s foundational gift in 1966. Influential contemporary artists including Laurie Anderson, Jeff Koons and Adam Pendleton joined Smithsonian, Hirshhorn and city leadership for this transformational moment for the national museum of modern and contemporary art.

“By preparing the Hirshhorn campus for the 21st century, we are answering our mandate to responsibly steward the national collection and engage the broadest possible audience,” Chiu said. “We are responsibly fortifying the Sculpture Garden and adding essential flexibility for current and future visitors, artists and scholars. We are honored to work closely with Hiroshi Sugimoto, who has conceived a dedicated outdoor space for encounters with art as only an artist can.”

The groundbreaking is a landmark occasion in the Hirshhorn’s almost 50-year history, one that will remake the campus of the nation’s modern art museum. Following the groundbreaking, the Museum will deinstall the sculpture in the garden and relocate them to the museum’s plaza. The garden will close in spring 2023 for what is expected to be a two-year project.

“Our campus is our hardware,” said Chiu. “This revitalization necessitates we also update our software: the language and platforms we use to engage, captivate and expand our global audience. We must meet them where they are: with us on the National Mall or online.”

The groundbreaking ceremony follows the museum’s announcement of pop superstar J Balvin’s appointment as its first cultural ambassador and the release of its largest collection book in almost a half-century. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: The Collection is a technology-powered volume that uses the Hirshhorn’s pioneering image-recognition software—Hirshhorn Eye (Hi for short)—to activate artworks within the book and show original videos such as artist interviews directly on readers’ smartphones. The Hirshhorn has also worked closely with the Smithsonian Channel to support a new, nonfiction series, The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist, filmed at the museum, that chronicles emerging artists’ responses to creative prompts inspired by the Hirshhorn permanent collection and exhibitions.

About the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all. The Hirshhorn Museum is open Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. The outdoor Sculpture Garden is open daily, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. For more information, visit Follow the Museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Image: Stephanie Ruhle, groundbreaking emcee and MSNBC host; artist Jeff Koons, Dan Sallick, chair of the Hirshhorn Board of Trustees; Steve Case, Chair, Smithsonian Board of Regents; Melissa Chiu, director, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; first lady Dr. Jill Biden; Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian; Hiroshi Sugimoto, artist and architect of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden revitalization, artists Adam Pendleton and Laurie Anderson at the Nov. 16 groundbreaking on the National Mall. Courtesy of Hirshhorn. Photo by Tony Powell.