One Billion Breaths in a Lifetime

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Installing Jill O’Bryan’s one billion breaths in a lifetime (2015). All photos: Amy Wike

You might notice something new the next time you pass the corner of 21st and Q Streets NW. Installation of artist Jill O’Bryan‘s one billion breaths in a lifetime was completed earlier this week. The text of the 16-foot-wide chrome sculpture is a calculation the artist made while creating a series of drawings recording her own breaths to capture time; it takes approximately 97 years to breath one billion breaths.

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Tools of the installation trade.

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Trimming the supports to the correct height.

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Installing Jill O’Bryan’s one billion breaths in a lifetime.

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Artist Jill O’Bryan assessing placement of her work.

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(left) Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenovic and artist Jill O’Bryan discuss the work as it’s installed (right) one billion breaths in a lifetime is prepped for final placement.

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The installations team makes sure the work is level before securing the piece at the corner of 21st and Q NW.

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Artist Jill O’Bryan looks on as her piece is installed.


ArtGrams: Giacometti’s Monumental Head


Via Instagrammer @jfg2003 “Nice one @giacometti.”

We’ve noticed that visitors are quite interested in Alberto Giacometti’s Monumental Head and have been snapping creative photos since it went back on view in our galleries a few months ago. In this month’s installment of ArtGrams (see the first and second installments from previous months), we’re highlighting some of our favorite shots, angles, and interactions with the sculpture.


Instagrammer @carofogg challenged Giacometti to a staring contest: “Staring contest! Quick! You and me! … win, you always doooo”


Instagrammer @plemeljr says: “Giacometti, ‘Monumental Head’ – very apt name”


Instagrammer @phia_p stages a playful pose


Via instagrammer @madfabriholic


Face-off, as outlined by Instagrammer @caemill: “1913 Kandinsky vs. 1960 Giacometti”

New Spaces / No Faces

Insults to the Public

Bernardi Roig, Insults to the Public, 2007. Polyester resin, marble dust, and TV/Video monitor. 22 4/5 x 8 1/4 x 9 in. Private Collection. Photos: Annie Dolan

In just a few days we say goodbye to Bernardi Roig’s six sculptures that have truly become a part of the Phillips’s landscape over the past five months. A lengthy exhibition time is fitting given the inconspicuous nature of the works, placed in unsuspecting spaces throughout the galleries. For frequent visitors to the museum, it might have taken a couple of walkthroughs to find all six. That was precisely Roig’s aim: to activate areas of the museum typically not used for exhibition space.

The smallest of the sculptures, Insults to the Public (2007) is the most inconspicuous of all, hidden in an elevator bank on the second floor of the original Phillips house. Although the smallest in size, Insults to the Public is the only one with an audio component coming from the small LCD screen featuring a speaking portrait. The colorless, faceless plaster sculpture is therefore not only illuminated by the vibrant lights coming from the screen, but also brought to life by the moving image which seems to be lecturing the weary figure leaning against it. With distorted bodily proportions and suggestive body language, Roig’s miniature standing figure evokes a feeling of simultaneous exhaustion, shame, and defeat.

My interpretation of this work is that the man on the screen could easily be the face of the sculpture himself. With a hanging head and a faceless expression, the man has no identity, yet his bald head matches the bald head on the screen in front of him. Is the speaking man giving his own tired body a critical lecture? This added dimension makes Insults to the Public one of the most thought provoking of the six sculptures given the suggestion of self-inspection.

We might have to say “goodbye” for now to Bernardi Roig’s sculptures, but we’ll always look at the spaces they inhabited with a new level of appreciation, remembering these haunting sculptures.

Annie Dolan, Marketing and Communications Intern