With the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian museums in lockdown as a result of the government shutdown, art-seeking tourists and locals alike must recalibrate their itineraries. Fortunately, Washington has many exhibition spaces that don’t close their doors whenever the president and the Congress can’t play nice. And don’t forget Baltimore, where, at the end of a short MARC train ride, you’ll find even more to see.
Here are 10 of the worthiest options, all of which are open — thank you very much. Several are even free.
Since the advent of moving pictures, Baltimore has seen some 240 theaters come and (more often) go. Baltimore Sun photojournalist Amy Davis documented 72 of these buildings, many now adapted to other uses or simply abandoned. This exhibition of photographs from Davis’s book of the same name surveys the handiwork of such theater architects as Baltimorean John J. Zink, who also designed the District’s Uptown and Atlas theaters (the latter now a performing arts center). It also celebrates the revival of such movie palaces as 1914’s Hippodrome (also remade for live performances in 2004) and the 1915 Parkway, which reopened in 2017.
401 F St. NW. Admission $10; ages 3-17, students, seniors and AARP members $7. Free admission for any federal employee with a valid government ID during the shutdown. nbm.org .
Nordic art is not widely shown in the United States. Perhaps the most famous artist in this survey exhibition is August Strindberg, who’s better known as a playwright (“Miss Julie”). Strindberg’s impressionistic 1894 oil-on-paper “Wonderland” is a highlight of the impressive if slightly lumpy show, which covers seven countries and nearly two centuries. The work ranges from 19th-century studio painting, which reveals the influence of France and the Netherlands, to contemporary video art, which could have been from anywhere that has electricity.
1600 21st St. NW. Admission $12; students and seniors $10; ages 18 and under free. Free admission for any federal employee with a valid government ID during the shutdown. phillipscollection.org.
Strolling through this enveloping show is a bit like walking through a dense jungle — except here, the foliage is all black-and-white. In an Amazonian nature preserve in his native Peru, photographer Roberto Huarcaya made photograms — or contact prints — of plants and fish, placing the objects directly on photographic paper and, without the use of a camera or lens, exposing the paper to light. (A video explains the process.) Many of the images are made on 115-yard-long scrolls of paper, displayed in darkened galleries that are illuminated only by small spotlights. The simulated bioluminescence evokes the strangeness of a deeply shadowed rain forest.
201 18th St. NW. Free. museum.oas.org.
This show revolves around 10 of Hodgkin’s large-format etchings, which, although technically landscapes, are impressionistic to the point of abstraction. The British artist, who died in 2017, first printed bold forms and bright colors, and then over-painted those etchings, mostly in white and black. Initially inspired by Thomas Mann’s 1912 novel “Death in Venice,” the artworks robustly convey light, dark and reflections on water. Hodgkin’s modernist prints are complemented by the show “Italy Inspiration,” a selection of more-traditional photos and paintings of Venice (and other picturesque Italian cities) from the collection of George Washington University.
500 17th St. NW. Free. corcoran.gwu.edu.
The NMWA’s first show devoted to fashion design spotlights Rodarte, the American couture house founded in 2005 by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy. (Rodarte is a version of their mother’s maiden name.) The display of darkly romantic ensembles spans the firm’s 13 years in business, presenting more than 90 complete looks as originally shown on the runway.
Also on view: “Mark My Words,” a selection of text-heavy paintings by Pakistani American artist Ambreen Butt. Trained in the traditional art of the Indian and Persian miniature, Butt adapts her skills to tackle contemporary feminist and political themes.
1250 New York Ave. NW. Admission $10; students and seniors $8; ages 18 and under free. On the first Sunday of the month, admission is free for all. nmwa.org.
Complexity and vigorous juxtaposition are the hallmarks of this group show featuring more than 40 works by contemporary Mexican artists. Paintings range from the abstract to the photorealistic. Collage is a common technique, incorporating everything from shards of porcelain to borrowings from Picasso. And “stone” sculptures turn out to be made of wax, resin, paper, cardboard and fiberglass. The art on view belongs to the Mexican government, which acquired it through an innovative program that enables artists to pay their taxes with their own creations.
2829 16th St. NW. Free. instituteofmexicodc.org.
This exhibition of photos, drawings, documents and much more — including currency, sheet music, dog tags and even a bullet — is keyed to the centenary of World War I’s 1918 armistice. But the show also covers the immediate postwar period, as well as such significant home-front developments as the push for African American civil rights. On display you’ll find mottoes for the 1917 Negro Silent Protest Parade and the almost-exactly-100-year-old manuscript for a speech delivered by W.E.B. Du Bois to the NAACP on Jan. 12, 1919.
Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE. Free. loc.gov.
While Bradford’s 400-foot-long installation at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, “Pickett’s Charge,” remains behind barred doors, a trip to Charm City unlocks another piece by the same artist — one known for his (literally) multilayered work. “Tomorrow Is Another Day” is a series of installations that mix the artist’s personal history with Greek mythology.
Also at BMA is “A Good Crisis,” a satirical video in which the Night King from “Game of Thrones” leads a tour of 20th-century economics. The 2008 fiscal crisis is the punchline of this piece of “edutainment” by DIS, a four-person art collective.
10 Art Museum Dr., Baltimore. Free. artbma.org.
The extremely rare lacquer sculpture of a seated Buddha featured in “The Return of the Buddha” might look familiar to regular D.C. museumgoers. Made in China, this sixth-century artifact was recently on loan from the Walters, which owns it, to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, where it was part of a small exhibition of three such statues. It’s now back on display, with detailed information about its construction and history.
Contemporary politics meet traditional ceramics in Robert Lugo’s installation, on view in the museum’s newly renovated 1 West Mount Vernon Place gallery. Lugo emulates the designs of Sèvres vases from the Walters’s collection but updates them with images of figures from African American history, including Freddie Gray, the Baltimorean who died in police custody in 2015.
600 N. Charles St., Baltimore. Free. thewalters.org.
Like the better-known folk artist Howard Finster, the Rev. Albert Lee Wagner was an untrained painter with a sense of mission. The title of this retrospective refers to an incident in which Wagner spilled house paint on a floorboard on the eve of his 50th birthday. That moment convinced him that he was a sinner and that he must paint his way to salvation. These biblically inspired pictures, all from the museum’s holdings, include an epic rendering of Moses parting the Red Sea.
800 Key Hwy., Baltimore. Admission $15.95; seniors $13.95; students and children $9.95; members and children 6 and under free. Free admission for any federal employee, plus up to three guests, with a valid government ID during the shutdown. avam.org.