On Saturday my friend Laura and I went down to The Phillips Collection in DC.  I’ve been wanting to visit The Phillips Collection since I moved to Maryland nine years ago, so this visit was long overdue.  The Phillips happened to open its special Van Gogh exhibit on Saturday, and between that and the government shutdown (this is one of the few DC museums open), the line to get into the museum went all the way down the block.

The wait was entirely worth it.

Laib Wax Room

{Image courtesy of The Phillips Collection}

I was especially taken with The Phillips’ new Laib wax room.  The room is made from 440 pounds of beeswax, and even before you step into the room itself you experience the fragrance.  Inside, that deep, golden amber seems just luminous.  The wax, flecked with dark burgundy, has an incredibly tactile surface, a certain organic dimension that felt as earthy as adobe, and yet somehow also otherworldly.

The Phillips literature describes the piece as a “meditative chamber,” and that description captures the nearly spiritual quality of this space.

If you’re in DC (or even if you aren’t), you’ll have to head down to the Phillips to experience this piece.  It’s brand new (commissioned from Wolfgang Laib this year) and, in U.S. permanent collections, entirely unique.


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