Wax Room Impressions

When I stepped into the room, I was overcome with the sweet fragrance. I actually smelled it before I saw it, walking up the stairs. The first thing I thought of was tea. Tea with honey, of course. Then my mind wandered to exotic travels, steaming hot summers, and spices. I was reminded of nature, damp winters, feather comforters, biscuits (the English kind), and Christmas.

In short, I felt good when I stood in the Laib Wax Room. I even felt warmer being in that bright, small space.

Young woman standing in Wolfgang Laib's Wax Room at the Phillips

Experiencing the Laib Wax Room. Photo courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

I read the wall label only after leaving the room and discovered that the artist, Wolfgang Laib, was profoundly influenced by his experiences in India and Southeast Asia. My initial thoughts tell me that my experience of the room was also influenced by travels abroad and memories that remain special.

Have you been to see the Laib Wax Room yet? What did it make you think of?

Jane Clifford, Marketing Intern

Wax and the City

Image of an installation by Ann Hamilton called palimpsest at the Hirshhorn and an image of Wolfgang Laib's Wax Room installation at the Phillips

(Left) Inside Ann Hamilton’s palimpsest (1989) at the Hirshhorn. (Right) Inside the Laib Wax Room at the Phillips. Wolfgang Laib, Wax Room (Where have you gone–where are you going?), 2013. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

During a recent trip to Over, Under, Next: Experiments in Mixed Media, 1913-Present at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, I walked into Ann Hamilton’s palimpsest and couldn’t help but think of the Laib Wax Room at The Phillips Collection. All four walls and even the ceiling of the installation at the Phillips are coated with roughly 440 pounds of beeswax; conversely, only the floor of Hamilton’s installation at the Hirshhorn is covered with beeswax tablets.

The installations are comparable in their intimate scale, but that’s about where the similarities between the two end. While Hamilton’s work provides endless content for contemplation (including thousands of hand-written notes and live snails), Wolfgang Laib’s stark room, bare save for a single light bulb, leaves visitors alone with their thoughts and senses.

Images of preparing to enter and being inside Ann Hamilton's installation at the Hirshhorn, palimpsest.

A closer look at the beeswax tablets coating the floor of Hamilton’s palimpsest. Visitors put on protective booties before entering to prevent damage to the wax floor.

Amy Wike, Publicity and Marketing Coordinator