This is certainly a city with no shortage of museums. D.C. is second only to New York City - a metropolis that has more than 14 times D.C.‘s population - in the number of museums contained in its borders. There are, of course, the staples: Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art and even the Spy Museum.
It is time to add to the list.
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood near AU is the Kreeger Museum, which displays the varied collection of David Kreeger, a former chief executive officer of GEICO, and his wife, Carmen.
David used the wealth he amassed to build up the artistic community in D.C. Next month, this community will gather to celebrate the museum’s 10th anniversary and award the first Kreeger Museum Artist award to someone “who has consistently demonstrated artistic excellence, creativity and has made a significant contribution to the artistic life of this city.” This will be an annual award given in order to recognize and encourage artists in the D.C. area.
The event will be held at the museum, which was originally a residence for the Kreegers that they commissioned architect Philip Johnson to build.
From the beginning, the Kreegers wanted their home to serve as an effective space to show their immense art collection. Their personal collection was very much a joint vision. As a couple, they decided that any piece of art purchased for their home had to be agreed upon by both of them.
With that being said, the art included in the collection is extremely varied in nature.
From the second-century Roman-Syrian “Head of Silenus” to the late-20th century pieces of contemporary art, the work is as diverse in style as it is in age. The gallery includes sculptures, paintings and African masks. Arguably, the beautiful architecture of the museum itself adds to the collection of art.
Included in the Kreeger Museum are works from well-known artists such as Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Kandinsky.
Among the more striking pieces in the collection are works from known artists that emphasized aspects of their work for which they were not necessarily famous. Picasso’s “Tete de Femme” of 1921 is an oil on canvas with no hint of the cubist or surrealist styles for which he is best known. Instead, it depicts with perfect honesty the head of the woman who posed for the painting.
Despite the large number of recognized artists in the collection, David Kreeger said on the museum’s Web site, “I never bought art as an investment, I bought it for love and I was lucky. Art that embodies the creative spirit of men transcends the value of money.”
The Kreegers’ commitment to developing the artistic community in Washington was not limited solely to collecting art. In the 1990s, the couple facilitated partnerships between local artist Lisa Scheer and students at three different schools in the area -Georgetown Day School, the Lab School of Washington and American University.
The Kreegers commissioned Scheer to sculpt a piece for the garden of their private home. She worked with students through each step of the process to develop their understanding of how the space in which art is intended to go can influence the design of that work.
Now that the Kreegers have died and left their home as a museum for the community, the museum organizes several children’s programs each year to increase youth participation in the arts. Adult programs are also run by the museum, with special opportunities made available for those who pay for membership status.
The Kreegers were also amateur musicians with as much passion for music as they had for unique works of art.
When Johnson designed their home, they requested that he develop an appropriate space for concerts. In their home, the couple hosted several private concerts, including friends of the family and accomplished musicians and performers such as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Zero Mostel.
Recognizing that the Kreegers’ love for art extended to music, the museum also organizes concerts that are open to the public.
The Kreeger will host the Biava Quartet Master Class on Nov. 13 at 1:00 p.m. The Quartet performs regular outreach concerts in an effort to educate young musicians. Tickets are free, but the museum encourages those interested in the concert to call and reserve a place.
For anyone with an interest in art or music, the Kreeger Museum is an answer to a prayer. It is close to campus, full of hidden treasures and relatively inexpensive for such a phenomenal collection (only a $5 recommended donation from students).
The Kreeger Museum is at 2401 Foxhall Road NW. For more information, call (202) 337-3050 or visit www.kreegermuseum.org.