American Art and Portrait Gallery Library News and Events


Smithsonian AA/PG Library reopens for public appointments:

Along with most libraries and reading rooms of the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, the AA/PG Library has reopened to public researchers as of July 2022. The library has a beautiful new space after a full reading room renovation, and we welcome researchers to make an appointment to work with our collection and staff. Please email for more information, including current Covid-19 protocols.


The AA/PG Library closed and under renovation through 2021:

Smithsonian Libraries plans a much-needed renovation of the American Art & Portrait Gallery Library to improve scholarly research and collaboration for Smithsonian staff, researchers and the public. A redesigned, open reading room will offer additional space for staff and researchers to work, incorporating both quiet and collaborative areas. A redesigned circulation and reference desk will provide a welcoming entry point and enable library staff to monitor public use of books and materials.  A newly constructed conference and training room will provide a tech-friendly, comfortable space for public programs and trainings. See more about this exciting project here.

In 2021, you can help AA/PG build the state-of-the-art 21stcentury home it deserves by donating here and inserting “AA/PG renovation” in the comment box.


AA/PG Annual Art, History, and Biography Booksale Cancelled for 2020-21.

The AA/PG Library remains closed in fall 2020-21 to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Our staff continues to work remotely and can respond to inquiries related to our library collections through 


AA/PG Annual Art, History, and Biography Booksale

10:00am-5:00pm on December 4, 5, and 6, 2019.

AA/PG Library, Victor Building 750 9th Street NW, Suite 2100. 202-633-8230

Right in time for the holidays! Open to all.

Over 2,000 books, catalogs, and magazines to choose from at prices at half of what others offer! Titles featuring art from all periods, history, biography, and more.

Current Exhibition in the AA/PG Library Reading Room:

Exhibition: The Other Woodstock: Woodstock Artists in the 20th Century.

On view in the AA/PG Library Reading Room October 2019-January 2020

Woodstock Festival brochure cover 1963

Though it didn’t host the eponymous music festival, Woodstock had been home to a thriving art colony since the early 1900s. The Smithsonian American Art and Portrait Gallery Library has a wealth of ephemera documenting the arts and culture of Woodstock from the 1900s-1960s. Read more about the history and material on display on our blog:

Previous AA/PG Events and Announcements:

Exhibition: A Temple of the Useful Arts: Highlights from the History of the Patent Office Building.

Read more on the Smithsonian Libraries blog:

Exhibition: Igniting Artistic Consciousness: Ephemera of Twentieth Century Instructors of the Art Students League of New York

R. B. Hale teaching class with skeletonsThe AA/PG Library received the donation of ephemera for more than 3,000 artists from the Art Students League of New York (ASL) in January 2017.

Curated by Smithsonian Libraries & Katzenberger Internship award recipient Michelle Ibarra, we have selected some of the most interesting items related to teachers at the League. On view in the Library Reading Room August-December, 2017.

Related event:

Art Students League Archive Edit-a-thon with Smithsonian American Art and Portrait Gallery Libraries, September 29, 2017

Photo: R. B. Hale Class, ASL no. 623, Photo by Jacob Burckhardt

Exhibition: "William Henry Holmes: The Glorious Scrapheap"

"William Henry Holmes: The Glorious Scrapheap" features items from the American Art & Portrait Gallery Library Special Collections related to the tenure of the first director of the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art. Bound scrapbooks, clippings, photographs, artwork and written letters trace Holmes' early days as staff artist for the Smithsonian Institution, to his travels on western expeditions, his time as foremost anthropologist and head of the Bureau of American Ethnology, to his directorship of the first art gallery of the Smithsonian. 

On view from April - August, 2017. See the Using the Library page for hours and directions.

Significant donation from the Art Students League of New York

The Smithsonian Libraries is pleased to announce the February 2017 donation of research ephemera for more than 4,000 artists from the Art Students League of New York (ASL), to be housed at the American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library.

The gift consists of secondary source material on the lives and careers of artists affiliated with the Art Students League as students, instructors, and board members, with particular strength in artists active in the mid-twentieth century. The nucleus of the collection began as the reference files of Ralph Mayer, painter, conservator, and author of The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques. The files were heavily supplemented by noted art critic, artist and unofficial historian of the ASL, Lawrence Campbell, and were maintained in part to produce the League’s annual catalog and newsletters between 1948 and 1995.

More information on this donation can be found on the Smithsonian Libraries blog. Art and Artist File Material may be consulted on site, and names are indexed in the online Art and Artist Files database.

Exhibition: Hard-edged, bright color: The Washington Color SchoolWashington Color School

With the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Gene Davis: Hot Beat, the American Art and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library is hosting a complementary exhibition of ephemera showcasing a group known as the Washington Color Painters. Also known as the Washington Color School, they a group of artists working in Washington, D.C. during the 1950s and 1960s who began experimenting with pure color painting, consequently putting the capital city on the American art stage. The Washington Color School typically refers to six painters: Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Gene Davis, Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring, and Paul Reed. The AA/PG Library is featuring ephemera from the Art & Artist Files collection for these artists, and many more, including Alma Thomas, Anne Truitt, V.V. Rankine, Hilda Thorpe, Sam Gilliam and Leon Berkowitz.

October 2016 - March 2017

The exhibition is accompanied by a short series of blog posts:

—“Hard-Edged, Bright Color” was produced by Angelique Roy. Roy was the 2016 ARLIS/NA Wolfgang Freitag Internship Award recipient, and completed her internship at the Smithsonian American Art and Portrait Gallery Library.


May - September 2016

The Smithsonian American Art and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library presents an exhibition of some of its recently acquired artists’ books in the Library’s Reading Room.

The artworks show a range of subjects, from the very personal, family stories, to the cult of celebrity. The examples range from mass-produced publications to unique, hand-made book works, created by artists including Sophie Arnold, John Baldessari, Emily Chaplain, Virginia Flynn and Joe Freedman, Jessie Nebraska Gifford and Esther K. Smith, Mar Goman, Karen Hanmer, Cheri Gaulke and Sue Maberry, Kerry McAleer-Keeler, Scott McCarney, Michael Peven, David Stairs, Josephine Stealey, Mungo Thomson, and Beata Wehr.


Come Together - American Artists Respond to Al-Mutanabbi Street"The Cycle of Censorship" Dina Scheel 

Exhibition: Come Together: American Artists Respond to Al-Mutanabbi Street

February 1 – March 30, 2016
​Reception February 1,  5-7 pm

750 9th Street NW, Suite 2100
Washington, D.C. 20001

In conjunction with the "Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016" book arts and cultural festival 

January-March, 2016

More information on the project and exhibition can be found on the Smithsonian Global website:

Pictured:  "The Cycle of Censorship" Dina Scheel, 2012"

Exhibition: Field of Vision: Landscape in the Artist’s Book

Landscape in the Artist’s Book

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries is proud to announce its newest display of artists’ books, titled “Field of Vision: Landscape in the Artist’s Book,” installed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery Library.  The display of over 15 artist-made books incorporates examples from the collections of the Warren M. Robbins Library at the National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery Library, as well as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library. The books reflect ways in which artists have responded to the world around them, from places they have lived in, travelled to, or only imagined. Books by artists such as Vito Acconci, Susan Allix, Tacita Dean, Edgar Heap of Birds, Richard Long, and Edward Ruscha are featured. The books range from commercially printed volumes, to handmade examples and encompass a period from the late 1960s up through to the last decade. The show will be on view through February 2014.

Please join us October 25, 2013 for A Wikipedia Loves Libraries Editathon at the Smithsonian AA/PG Library, focusing on American Artists at the World's Columbian Exposition. Chicago World's Fair by Thomas Moran

Please check out the Smithsonian Libraries blog for collections highlights and news from the AA/PG Library! 

Field of Vision Invite.pdf173.59 KB