DC art enthusiasts would do well to visit the Smithsonian’s 20th Century Russian Paintings exhibit before it ends on April 10th (extended closing date). The multitude of Soviet-era painting styles on display is startling, showing a far richer, more colorful variety of life than I thought existed in Russia behind the Iron Curtain.
The collection is on display down in the International Gallery of the S. Dillon Ripley Center, one of the Smithsonian’s well-hidden underground secrets — literally. Look for the unobtrusive round kiosk nestled in the trees behind the Castle, near the Freer Gallery. Descend the spiraling stairs and single escalator within, go past the exhibit of original Smithsonian prints, and in the cavernous subterranean halls of the Ripley Center, lit by skylights high above you, the entrance to the International Gallery should be to your right, at the end of a long white hallway. No photography allowed, no talking above a whisper.
(Painting above is a detail from “Laughing Milkmaids” by Nikolai Nikolaevich, my favorite painting at the exhibit.)