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Visit the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden

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To reopen its august doors, the National Gallery of Art initiated a host of new guidelines for visitors, including timed passes, reduced hours, and card-only services. Alas, no more bopping inside for a sprint through the French galleries and a blast of A/C. While crowd-control measures make a museum visit less risky, all the safety precautions in the world may not be enough for people who have truly internalized the conventional corona wisdom that the best way to stay safe while being social is to be outside. If you’re one of those people, the National Gallery has you covered: The sculpture garden promises an awesome experience for people who can come to it with fresh eyes. Consider approaching just a couple of works, such as Louise Bourgeois’ “Spider” and Magdalena Abakanowicz’s “Puellae (Girls),” minimalist pieces that draw on familial anxiety (in the case of Bourgeois’s arachnid) and fear of totalitarianism (Abakonwicz’s anonymous figures). Hunker down with “Stele II” by Ellsworth Kelly or Mark di Suvero’s “Aurora,” primo examples of hard geometric abstraction in sculptural form. Roxy Paine’s “Graft” seems like an appropriate piece for the COVID-19 era: A tree rendered in polished stainless steel, it reduces the natural sublime to an unfeeling commodity. The lack of diversity in the museum’s collection is on full display in the sculpture garden, unfortunately, so go in with a gimlet eye about the stories being told here. But as long as coronavirus cases are still rising, the sculpture garden is the best art bet in town. The sculpture garden is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at 7th and Madison Streets NW. A tour of the outdoor collection is available at nga.gov. Free. —Kriston Capps