Start the Art: Fainting Couch

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While the Made in the USA exhibition occupies most of the museum’s galleries, the original Phillips house is devoted to new treasures and old favorites. We are so excited to display an especially unique recent acquisition, Valeksa Soares’s Fainitng Couch (2011). This multisensory work invites visitors to repose on a stainless steel chaise as they take in the heady olfactory notes of real stargazer lilies—60 to 80 blooms in all—which are stored in drawers built underneath the metal seating.

In order to maintain the pleasant aroma, the lilies must be replaced on a weekly basis, a task that has fallen to none other than the Phillips’s Chief of Security and Operations Dan Datlow! Working directly with the collection wasn’t something Dan ever thought would be part of his daily activities, but he readily admits that he enjoys the responsibility. “The couch demonstrates that the Phillips isn’t a static building, but an active, modern institution. It really makes me appreciate what we do here,” Dan says. “I don’t really look at replacing the lilies as work, it’s actually very therapeutic. I jump at any opportunity to work with the collection like this.”

Soares’s Fainting Couch is on display through the end of April, so make sure you come by and take in the “scent-sational” experience for yourself!

Painting the Wind

Harold Weston, Winds, Upper Ausable Lake, 1922

Harold Weston, Winds, Upper Ausable Lake, 1922. Oil on canvas, 16 1/8 x 22 3/16 in. Gift of Mrs. Harold Weston, 1981. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.

This work by Harold Weston, part of the Made in the USA exhibition, captures the power of the wind in the pulsing ripples on the surface of the lake, bright morning sunlight glinting off each peak.

Made in the USA: E Pluribus Unum

Charles Sheeler, Skyscrapers, 1922. Oil on canvas, 20 x 13 in. Acquired 1926. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC

Made in the USA, which opens tomorrow, shines a light on the strength of American artists in The Phillips Collection. 80% of our collection is by American artists. At the time of Duncan Phillips’s death in 1966, there were about 2,000 works in the collection; 1,400 were American. Many of them were by living artists and quite a few were at the beginning of their careers. The last time the museum devoted this much space to American art was in 1976, in honor of the country’s bicentennial. Through this survey of fifty years of Duncan Phillips’s collecting, we hope to illustrate how he defined the modern spirit of American Art.