Astronauts Grissom and Young Suiting Up by Normal Rockwell, 1965. Courtesy National Air and Space Museum; liscensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL


NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration

Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

Remembering COLUMBIA by Chakaia BookerEstablished soon after the inception of the U.S. space program in 1958, NASA’s Art Program provides a unique way to communicate the accomplishments, setbacks, and sheer excitement of space exploration to the public. Over the years, more than 200 NASA-commissioned artists have enjoyed a behind-the-scenes perspective of the agency, often working directly with the astronauts, scientists, and other personnel who have shaped its missions and programs. Some watched Neil Armstrong “suit up” for his mission to the moon, or, more recently, witnessed contact with Mars rovers from mission control rooms.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2008, NASA is collaborating with SITES and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) on NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration.

First Steps by Mitchell Jamieson

Drawn from works in NASA and NASM’s archives that range from the illustrative to the abstract, the exhibition features approximately 50 paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, and other media by such artists as Annie Leibovitz, Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, Norman Rockwell, Doug and Mike Starn, Andy Warhol, William Wegman, and Jamie Wyeth.

Exhibitors will also receive a copy of the companion book of the same title (Abrams, 2008), which was featured in the New York Times Book Review, December 7, 2008.

" . . . the theme of space exploration never ceases to fascinate." —Steven Heller, New York Times Book Review



Exhibition Specifications

Contents 73 framed photographs, paintings, and works on paper, sculpture, audio art, mixed media, text and graphic panels, labels
Supplemental Educational and promotional resources; exhibition brochures for public distribution; copy of companion book, NASA | ART (Harry N. Abrams, 2007)
Participation Fee $33,000 per venue
Size 300 running feet, est.
Crates 18
Weight 4,846 lbs.
Category Art
Security High
Shipping Prorated, SITES-designated carrier
SITES Contacts Ed Liskey, 202.633.3142
Tour Through September 2012: Fully Booked


Tour Itinerary

Dates   Host Institution Status
10/25/2008 1/18/2009 Art League of Bonita Springs, Bonita Springs, FL Booked
2/6/2009 5/3/2009 City of Lake Charles Arts & Cultural Center, Lake Charles, LA Booked
5/23/2009 8/16/2009 Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL Booked
9/5/2009 11/29/2009 Irving Arts Center, Irving, TX Booked
12/19/2009 3/07/2010 Colorado Springs Fine Arts CenterColorado Springs, CO Booked
4/3/2010 6/27/2010 Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, MS Booked
7/22/2010 10/10/2010 Museum of Florida History, Tallahassee, FL Booked
10/30/2010 1/23/2011 Arizona Museum for Youth, Mesa, AZ Booked
2/12/2011 5/8/2011 Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia, Charleston, WV Booked
5/28/2011 10/9/2011 National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC Booked

Tour Extension

Dates   Host Institution Status
11/4/2011 1/29/2012 Las Cruces Museum of Art, Las Cruces, NM Booked
4/14/2012 6/17/2012 Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI Booked
7/7/2012 9/30/2012 Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA Booked

Related Publications

NASA | ART : 50 Years of Exploration, by James Dean and Bertram Ulrich. Forward by Michael Collins. Introduction by Thomas Crouch. (Harry N. Abrams, 2007), 176 pages.

Artists, like astronauts, are constantly probing into the unknown. It is fitting that, shortly after the establishment of NASA in 1958, the NASA Art Program was created on the principle that artists are uniquely equipped to interpret and document the experience of space exploration. In the program’s early years, artists as diverse as Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, and James Wyeth participated. The collection includes works by Alexander Calder, Nam June Paik, William Wegman, Mike and Doug Starn, Vija Celmins, and Annie Leibovitz. Amazon book review.

Exhibitors will receive a copy of the companion book of the same title (Abrams, 2008), which was featured in the New York Times Book Review, December 7, 2008.


NASA | ART book cover




Press Release

May 20, 2008

Media only:    Jennifer Schommer (202) 633-3121    
Public only:   (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285

Smithsonian Celebrates NASA’s 50th Anniversary with Traveling Art Exhibition

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. As the space agency turns 50 this fall, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) will launch a national tour of NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration, featuring 73 works from those artists.

NASA | ART opens at the Art League of Bonita Springs in Bonita Springs, Fla., Oct. 25. It will be on view there through Jan. 17, 2009, and then travel to 10 museums through 2011.

The exhibition is organized by SITES and NASA in cooperation with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. It features nearly five decades of creations by artists as diverse as Annie Leibovitz, Nam June Paik, Norman Rockwell, Doug and Mike Starn, Andy Warhol and William Wegman. Drawn from the collections of NASA and the National Air and Space Museum, the exhibition includes 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. 

The works featured in the exhibit date from the inception of the NASA Art Program in 1962, when NASA administrator James E. Webb asked a group of artists to illustrate, interpret and elucidate the space agency’s missions and projects. 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.

A companion book complements the national traveling exhibition. NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration will be published in fall 2008 by Harry N. Abrams.
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.

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.



Exhibition Specifications

Tour Itinerary

Exhibition Images

Exhibition Prospectus

Related Publications

Press Release

If you like this exhibition, you may also like:

Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes (Archives)

Earth from Space (Archives)

Suited for Space (Archives)

More Exhibitions from SITES


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