The Phillips’s first permanent installation since the Rothko Room (1960), the Laib Wax Room opens March 2, 2013. Wolfgang Laib, Wax Room (Where have you gone–where are you going?), 2013. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Photo: Lee Stalsworth
I have made beeswax chambers over the past twenty-five years or so, and more recently I have felt that I would not make them for temporary exhibitions, one after the other, but only if they could be permanent. A wax chamber is something like a house, anyway: You build a house and you don’t take it down. A wax chamber is also something that you could never explain, and it would be a pity to try to do so, because it’s so simple and also very complex.
Wolfgang Laib, Artforum.com
In early 2013, German artist Wolfgang Laib (whose Milkstone nourished us briefly back in March 2011) will create a wax room in a little upstairs space of the original Phillips house. Up the stairs from the parlors, through intimate galleries (where works by Lee Gatch, Leo Villareal, and Paul Klee currently hang), up a few more stairs to a landing, you will discover the entrance to a small chamber just before the Main Gallery. Step inside, and you will be enveloped by the comforting scent of beeswax in a room just for you (and maybe one companion), illuminated by the glow of a single bare light bulb. The Laib Wax Room will be the artist’s first site-specific wax room for a museum and the Phillips’s first permanent installation since the Rothko Room (1960). Read more about our news on this major commission in today’s New York Times and Washington Post.
Wolfgang Laib using a warm iron to smooth the walls of the wax chamber on his own property in southern Germany. Courtesy of the artist
Wolfgang Laib finishes the walls of his wax rooms with a flame, which gives a unique shine to the beeswax surface. Here the artist works on a permanent wax chamber realized in a historic building in Switzerland. Courtesy of the artist