In 2021, The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, celebrates its centennial. The museum opened its doors 100 years ago as a memorial to founder Duncan Phillips’s father, Duncan Clinch Phillips, and brother, James, who died in the 1918 flu epidemic. Recognizing the healing power of art, Phillips sought to share his “living” collection in a welcoming space and to inspire others to find beauty in the artist’s unique way of seeing the world. Building on this founding principle, Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century at once commemorates the museum’s centennial and launches its next vibrant chapter.
Drawn from its growing collection of nearly 6,000 works, Seeing Differently will highlight over 200 works by artists from the 19th century to the present, including paintings, works on paper, prints, photographs, sculptures, quilts, and videos. Spread throughout the entire museum, the exhibition will explore the complexities of our ever-changing world through themes of identity, history, place, and the senses—with special focus on recent acquisitions that showcase how the museum’s dynamic collection continues to evolve.
Seeing Differently marks the first major celebration of the museum’s permanent collection in over 10 years. Guided by Duncan Phillips’s belief in the universal language of art as a unifying force for social change, the exhibition will present dynamic, engaging juxtapositions that connect artists past and present across national, racial, and gender lines.
From the Collection
From the Community
Seeing Differently integrates local voices by incorporating community written labels in the galleries. Click on the images to read some of the community responses.
Digital Guide + Audio Tour
Listen to the audio stops for works featured in the exhibitions on SoundCloud
Download the free Bloomberg Connects App to access the audio guide, artwork information, and more—at home or in the galleries
Introduction to Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century
Real World History: The Great Migration
As part of Seeing Differently, the Phillips presents a project created in collaboration with high school students in Center for Inspired Teaching’s Real World History class. Using Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series as a springboard for conversations about the legacy of the Great Migration and the universal theme of struggle in the world today, the students conducted oral histories of individuals who moved from the South to Washington, DC, prior to 1970, and also wrote responses for the panels in The Migration Series.
Seeing Differently is accompanied by a major exhibition catalogue (The Phillips Collection in association with Giles, 2021), edited by Senior Curator Elsa Smithgall. This richly illustrated book includes an opening essay by Vradenburg Director & CEO Dorothy Kosinski; artist conversations with John Edmonds, Whitfield Lovell, Alyson Shotz, and the late David C. Driskell; 11 thematic essays by scholars across disciplines; and object responses by notable contributors.
Seeing Differently: The Philips Collects for a New Century is organized by The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.
The exhibition and its publication are generously supported by a lead gift from the Henry Luce Foundation.
With significant contributions from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, Charles McKittrick, Jr., the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Ednah Root Foundation, the Frauke de Looper Trust, and the Robert and Arlene Kogod Family Foundation
Made possible by the Carolyn Alper Fund for Contemporary Art and The Phillips Collection’s Exhibitions Endowment Fund, which is generously supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, Michelle and Glenn Engelmann, Robert and Debra Drumheller, and The Marion F. Goldin Charitable Fund
Additional support provided by Sam and Ruth Alward, Barbara Brown Hawthorn, Helen and David T. Kenney, and Ronald Stern and Elisse Walter
Special thanks to our key academic partner, University of Maryland, a global leader in research, entrepreneurship, and innovation
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In-kind contributions provided by
The wall colors in the exhibition: Ammonite (No. 274), Cabbage White (No. 269), Cook’s Blue (No. 237), Cornforth White (No. 228), Down Pipe (No. 26), Inchyra Blue (No. 289), Lamp Room Gray (No. 88), Paean Black (No. 294), Pavilion Gray (No. 242), Peignoir (No. 286), Pointing (No. 2003), Railings (No. 31), Red Earth (No. 64), Strong White (No. 2001), Wevet (No. 273)
The Artist in Conversation
As part of our centennial celebration, The Phillips Collection conducted in-depth interviews with important voices in art today.