Smithsonian American Art Museum

Renegade Tours
Museums October 25, 2018 Picture of the museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, aka SAAM, is part of Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution.

Along with the Renwick Gallery, SAAM boasts an art collection worthy of international attention. More than 7,000 artists are part of the expansive collection of exhibits. A large portion of the museum’s collection of artworks resides in the Old Patent Office Building alongside the collection belonging to the National Portrait Gallery. (Fun fact: You’ll visit both museums on our company team building in DC and Un-Highlights tours!)

Fun Facts About The Smithsonian American Art Museum

  • The collection started in 1829 in the “Castle,” which is the nickname for the original Smithsonian Building.
  • More than 2.5 million people are estimated to have seen the museum’s traveling exhibits.

Below we’ve included a FAQ Section with lots of logistical information to help you plan your visit. Scroll down to view our “5 Things to See at the Smithsonian American Art Museum” for a quick virtual tour of sorts.

Seem like a lot of art to cover? Let us do the work for you! Come check out one of our new renegade tours or bring your team to learn from some of the best figures history has to offer.

5 Things to See at Smithsonian American Art Museum

Portrait of Mnonja

Mickalene Thomas’s 2010 Portrait of Mnonja is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of art by African American artists. The SAAM is home to one of the world’s largest African American art collections, with at least 2,000 paintings by more than 200 African-American artists. 

Example from the museum collection


The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s sculpture collection is considered to be one of the best around the world. Here we see Puck, a sculpture by Harriet Hosmer, which she completed in 1856. 

Example from the museum collection

Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

Nam June Paik‘s piece was inspired when he came to American in the 1960s. Today, Pak is thought of as the leader of video art. 

Example from the museum collection

Jackpot Machine

From the SAAM’s website: “Creamy strokes of red, white, and blue invite the viewer to follow the American dream, grab the handle and get rich quick, like all those who come to the West Coast looking for the prize. Only two out of three tokens line up, however, as if Thiebaud wanted to point out how random success can be.”

Example from the museum collection

Nuestra senora de Belen

The SAAM is home to iconic art, including Jose Campeche y Jordan’s Nuestra senora de Belen, depicting the Virgin Mary.



Example from the museum collection

Smithsonian American Art Museum: Frequently Asked Questions & Logistics


$0 Everyone

Coat Check

Backpacks are not allowed to be worn on your back, so, be willing to keep them on your front or at your side while visiting the galleries. Suitcases, full-length umbrellas, and backpacks or purses can all be checked in the coat rooms at the F and G street entrances. You can also store your things in lockers provided by the museum. Read more about the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s policies here.


Phone Number: 202-633-7970

Address: F St NW & 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

Dining at the Smithsonian American Art Museum  

Visit the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard for dining at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; it’s a café with salads and sandwiches, beer and coffee, plus free WiFi.


11:30am-7pm daily

Closed on Christmas


Street parking is limited to metered spaces (be sure to get there early!) and some public garages which charge hourly rates. 

Public Transit

Take the Metro Red Line and get off at the Gallery Place/Chinatown Stop. The DC Circulator’s Georgetown-Union Station route has a stop in the neighborhood.


Strollers are allowed in the galleries and exhibitions, but are subject to staff’s judgement if spaces become overcrowded.

What’s Allowed Inside

Water may be kept inside a bag within the galleries, but otherwise, no outside food or drinks are allowed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 

Why We Know So Much About Smithsonian American Art Museum

Our company, Museum Hack, leads renegade tours of the world’s best museums, including at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. Our guides are experts in the obscure, and collectors of amazing hidden stories about the art and museum; many of which the museum staff isn’t allowed to share.

When you come on a tour of the Smithsonian American Art Museum with Museum Hack, expect:

  • Fun games! Tell us which artworks you’d match with an emoji. Recreate a famous painting in a tableau vivant posing contest. Create your own High School Superlatives with the portraits.
  • A world of gossip. We have the saucy scandals covered. 
  • Subversive stories. There’s a painting of a woman with a really fabulous, fancy, LARGE hairdo. Why? Because she was a spy for the crown who would hide secrets woven into her hair. A Vermeer painting that’s only “attributed” to the artist, as it’s authenticity is still in question!
  • Hidden insights. The museum often leaves out the best, most interesting information, but we’ve got you covered. 
  • Zany photos. We love museum selfies! Art museums always make great backgrounds. We’ll even challenge you to use your camera to complete challenges and play games during the tour.

No matter how many times you’ve visited the Smithsonian American Art Museum, we’ll show you the “Un-highlights” you have never seen or heard of before.

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