ArtGrams: It’s in the Details


Closeup of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party from Instagrammer @mariliazim

You’ve been taking advantage of that camera zoom and getting into the heart of the works on view at the Phillips. For this month’s ArtGrams, we’re sharing some of our favorite detail shots from visitors.


Detail shot of Per Kirkeby’s Untitled (2012) , a recent gift from art collector and dealer Michael Werner, by @elevenrivington


Instagrammer @rebecouli snapped a closeup of Mark Rothko’s Green and Maroon (1953)


Instagrammer @eyeofsi went beyond the frame for this detail shot of one of our fireplaces: “Tetris, seats, or retired fireplace?”


Detail of Annette Messager’s installation Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies) (1989-90) by Instagrammer @jeffreysartfeed


Detail shot of Paul Klee’s Arab Song (1932) by Instagrammer @dantonlpz


Instagrammer @tuckerwonders zoomed in on this moment in Pierre-August Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party


Wolfgang Laib’s wax room, a permanent installation at the Phillips, is a popular photo stop with visitors, but Instagrammer @goffashley’s closeup captures an exceptionally intimate perspective.

Changing Museum Rituals: Part 2

This is a multi-part blog post. Read Part 1 here, and check back in the following weeks for parts 3 and 4.

Gina Cashia with Red Song_1

Interacting with “Red Song”

Upon first glance, Franz Erhard Walther’s Red Song can be perceived as three red cloth lockers lined up next to one another with three red coats hanging inside. The artist asks the viewer to carefully untie the item hanging in the box and interact with it (visitors to the Phillips are invited to activate this piece between 2–3 pm daily). Although there is nearby text that supports the interaction between art and viewer, people are still hesitant. When I spoke to Museum Assistants about the presence of the interactive piece, their responses, in my opinion, weren’t surprising. They tell me interaction has been limited because people are afraid to touch the work or get in trouble, even with the text offering permission. This fear of art, or fear of interaction, is might come from the rituals that were created and associated with museums. In a world where rules are meant to be followed, how can museums eliminate that sense of fear?

When I first saw Red Song, I thought it was an installation, potentially referencing hazmat tents and suits. I did not realize it was an interactive piece until I spoke with a staff member. To see how others reacted to the piece, I staked out the gallery for a bit. During my first observation, I hoped one of the four people in the space would start participating. Their interaction didn’t extend beyond talking to one another about what it could be. The second experience I had with Red Song was much different; I both observed and interacted. At first I was cautious when I began untying the items and delicately placed them on my body. After I became more acquainted with the piece, though, I found myself being drawn back to my childhood, reliving memories of dressing up and living in an imaginative moment. The next thing I knew, I had spent 20 minutes dressing, undressing, tying, untying. This piece made me wonder what the compositional structure references, and if it’s supposed to have multiple people interacting with it at once or one person at a time.

Gina Cashia, Marketing & Communications Intern

Changing Museum Rituals: Part 1

Franz Erhard Walther Red Song

Installation view of Franz Erhard Walther’s “Red Song.” Photo: Gina Cashia

As a grad student seeking a Master’s Degree in Arts Management at George Mason University, “Arts and Society” is one of my core classes this semester. Required reading includes Civilizing Rituals, which examines the ritual practices that occur in art museums. Author Carol Duncan explains how when entering a museum, a visitor goes through a social transformation. According to Duncan, museums often unwittingly provide a scripted experience for a visitor; although all museums possess different aesthetics, they have the same goal to “construct visitors as enlightenment seeking citizens, and lead them on a tour through history.”

Growing up, I saw museums as entities with a set of of rules to follow, such as talk quietly, dress nicely, and refrain from touching artwork or taking pictures, which can be at odds with creating a welcoming environment for all audiences. However, one work at the Phillips caught my attention as a good example of how present-day museums and artists are attempting to break this standardization of rituals by having visitors create their own aesthetic experience through interactive art: Red Song by Franz Erhard Walther.

Walther produces works, often in primary colors and out of ordinary heavy canvas, that are reminiscent of minimalist compositions, and is recognized for his early investigation of participatory art. Using fabric forms (which he first developed in the 1960s), the artist invites visitors to engage with his work, emphasizing the temporal and experimental aspects of art. This is the case for his piece Red Song, currently on view in a gallery showcasing recent acquisitions.

This is a multi-part blog post; check back in the following weeks for parts 2, 3, and 4.

Gina Cashia, Marketing & Communications Intern