One of the D.C. Metro area’s largest museum expansions in decades, the Glenstone Museum was transformed from one gallery into a multi-building complex in 2018, with 10 large-scale sculptures and one outdoor sound installation. Some of the biggest names in modern art had their hand in this 15-year project, turning this quiet spot in Potomac, Maryland into a major art destination—and a free one at that. Glenstone is a holistic art and architecture experience focused on post-World War II art. Set aside a few hours, wear comfortable shoes, and prepare to be wowed.
About the Museum
Initially opened as a single building in Potomac, Maryland in 2006, Glenstone features the private art collection of Emily and Mitchell Rales. In 2018, the museum reopened with a major overhaul that increased the gallery space by five times and added 130 acres to the property, making it the largest private contemporary art museum in the United States. The collection consists of about 1,300 post-World War II artworks spread between two galleries, called Pavilions, with sculptures spread among the 230 acres.
From 2013 to 2018, more than 7,000 trees, thousands of shrubs, annual and perennial grasses, and flowers were planted to create the regionally appropriate landscape. The 40 acres of meadows contain stunning wildflowers and grasses to help cultivate the ecosystem.
What to See and Do at the Museum
Designed by Thomas Phife, the Pavilions are works of art themselves. The boxy, low-slung buildings seem to rise out of the grassy fields almost like a mirage. Featuring 204,000 square feet—with 50,000 of that being exhibit space—the Pavilions display art in 13 separate rooms. At the center of the Pavilions is an 18,000-square-foot water court festooned with plant life. Artwork in various mediums is on display by luminaries like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, and Barbara Kruger.
A big draw for many is exploring the meticulously landscaped grounds and the large-scale sculptures placed throughout. Pieces by Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, Tony Smith, Ellsworth Kelly, Michael Heizer, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Charles Ray, Robert Gober, and Jeff Koons are spread out across meadows, woodlands, and three ponds. You will also find their works near structures including the Pavilions; a patio café; an environmental center; and the original 2006 gallery, which houses rotating exhibits. Trails amid the organic landscape lead visitors to the various sculptures.
Notable Works: Jeff Koons’ Split-Rocker, Richard Serra’s Sylvester, Brice Marden’s Moss Sutra with the Seasons, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Frogmen, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and Roue de Bicyclette, Bruce Nauman’s American Violence, Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, and Yayoi Kusama’s Accumulation on Cabinet No. 1.
Hours and Admission
Even though admission is free, all visits must be scheduled in advance by buying timed tickets on the website. Tickets are released in three-month increments, with new months added at 10 a.m. on the first of the month; they sell out quickly, so visit the website on the first for the best ticket options.
The museum is open year-round from Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m; timed entry is every 15 minutes.
Getting to the Museum
Driving: From downtown D.C., travel takes 30 to 45 minutes without traffic. From downtown Baltimore, travel takes 60 minutes without traffic. There are three parking areas near the Arrival Hall: Red Oak, White Oak, and Sycamore. Accessible parking is available directly in front of the Arrival Hall in the Sycamore parking grove. Bicycle parking is available at the Environmental Center, a one-minute walk from the Red Oak parking grove.
Tips for Visiting
- No children under 12 years old are allowed, and all minors under 18 need to be accompanied by an adult.
- The day of your visit, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a lot of walking.
- All visits begin and end at the Arrivals Hall, where there are bathrooms and a bookstore.
- Don't bring large or heavy bags. Any bag larger than 14” x 14” will need to be placed inside a locker while in the Pavilions. And remember, you’ll be doing a lot of walking so you shouldn’t bring anything too heavy.
- Guides stationed around the museum, indoors and out, are available to help and answer questions about the art.
- Note that Andy Goldsworthy’s three Clay Houses and the sound installation by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller are accessible only between noon and 4 p.m.
- Photographs are allowed outside, but not inside the Pavilions.
- It’s possible to see the entire museum in one visit; it takes around three or four hours to traverse the trails and see the art inside the Pavilions. On a nice day, you may want to spend even more time exploring outside.