Culture & Arts

You Can't See These Iconic Masterpieces Thanks To The Government Shutdown

Some of the world's busiest museums went dark Tuesday.

The government shutdown -- the first in 17 years -- has paralyzed hundreds of institutions, including all 19 Smithsonian museums, the Hirshhorn Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. These entities house some of the greatest works in the world. They're also free to enter, and routinely draw millions of visitors a year (as early as August of this year, 769,000 people had already visited the National Portrait Gallery alone).

Here's a sampling of the greatest works inside seven of the closed museums:

The Peacock Room
American artist James McNeill Whistler famously got so carried away creating this show-stopper that the shipping magnate who commissioned the structure refused to pay him. Shown above: the centerpiece of Whistler's series of linked shelving and paneling, called, simply, The Princess. At the Freer Gallery of Art.
The Lansdowne Portrait
More than two centuries old, the Lansdowne is iconic, if little known. It was made for a Pennsylvania senator to gift to the Marquesse of Lansdowne, in England, by the great American portraitist, Gilbert Stuart. Today there are plenty of copycats, and few originals -- this one was snatched up by the Portrait Gallery in 2001, thanks to a clutch $30 million donation. At the National Portrait Gallery.
The Wendell Castle Ghost Clock
This seemingly shrouded grandfather clock is Castle's contribution to the most crowd-pleasing of art genres: trompe l'oeil -- or trick of the eye. In fact, the sculpture is a single unit, and everything, even that perfectly draped sheet, is carved from mahogany. At the National Museum of American Art.
Edgar Degas' Mary Cassatt
If the shutdown has a silver lining, it's to do with Mary Cassatt's wishes. The Pennsylvania-born printmaker famously disliked her "serious" demeanor in this portrait by her BFF Edgar Degas, and forbade its sale to American galleries so her friends and family wouldn't see it. At the National Portrait Gallery.
Beneath The Wave Off The Coast Of Kanagawa
The Sackler Gallery is devoted to Asian art, and it fittingly houses one of the world's most extensive collections of work by Katsushika Hokusai. This piece is part of the Japanese master's 36 Views Of Mount Fuji series, and the crown jewel of a 2006 traveling exhibit. At the Sackler Gallery.
Chuck Berry's Convertible
One of the most satisfying sights in the brand new African American History museum has four wheels. Chuck Berry donated his cherry-red Cadillac convertible to the Smithsonian gallery, seen here in a still from the 1987 rock-doc "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll." In the film, Berry drives the car onto the stage of a St. Louis theater that turned him away years before because of the color of his skin. At the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The Jewelry of Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Love it or hate it, the Museum of the American Indian is a D.C. landmark. Among the items on display that no one can agree on -- jewelry from the private collection of Colorado republican, Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Is it a lazy excuse for a display, or art? The question is worth pursuing, if only to spur a conversation about the clout of indigenous art. At the National Museum of The American Indian.

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