Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in cooperation with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
NASA’s historic triumphs and pioneering legacy are well known to millions, but the inspiring rocket launches, moon landings and planetary explorations also have had an impact on the imaginations of America’s leading artists. “NASA | ART” features nearly five decades of creations by artists as diverse as Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz, Nam June Paik, and William Wegman, featuring 73 works of art including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture and other art forms and media. These works—ranging from the illustrative to the abstract—offer unparalleled insight into the private and personal moments, triumphant victories and tragic accidents that form the storied history of NASA.
For example, in Henry Caselli’s “When Thoughts Turned Inward,” the artist captures the serene, almost spiritual moment before takeoff, when an astronaut must prepare mentally for a mission. In Chakaia Booker’s “Remembering Columbia,” the tragedy and pain of the lost Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew are transformed in the twisting tire remnants preserved from one of the shuttle’s earlier missions. And Andy Warhol melds Buzz Aldrin’s historic steps on the lunar surface with the unbridled exuberance and flashiness of the 1960s in his neon-highlighted “Moonwalk” silkscreen.
In 1962, NASA asked a group of artists to illustrate, interpret and elucidate the space agency’s missions and projects beginning the NASA Art Program. Since then, painters, musicians and conceptual artists have been with NASA every step of the way, strolling along launch pads, training in flight simulators, talking with engineers and technicians and visiting with astronauts before and after their flights.
“Scientists, astronauts, and artists have one important quality in common,” said Smithsonian co-curator Bert Ulrich. “All share the inclination to explore, whether by means of scientific investigation, a mission to the moon, or a paint brush. These works of art provide a historical legacy for the public to behold. After all, art is often an important byproduct of any great era of history, including the space age.”
NASA was established by Congress in 1958 “to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.” The agency is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with 10 field centers and other facilities across the nation. NASA’s mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research. nasa.gov
National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum, composed of the flagship building on the National Mall in Washington and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., is home to the world’s finest collection of flight artifacts. From aircraft and space vehicles to engines, art and models, the wide array of the museum’s holdings tells the story of the history and technology of air and space exploration. The museum is also a key resource for research into the history, science and technology of aviation and space flight. nasm.si.edu
Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibitions
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at sites.si.edu.