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

Who owns the rights to documentations of performance art?

As a curator specializing in contemporary art from the 1960s to the present, with a particular interest in performative works by such artists as James Lee Byars and Yves Klein, I was alarmed by a recent court ruling on the issue of who owns the copyright to the photographic documentation of artistic performances. A German court ruled in favor of Eva Beuys, the widow of the artist Joseph Beuys, who claims that she controls the rights to photographs taken during Beuys’s 1964 performance Das Schweigen von Marcel Duchamp ist überbewertet (The silence of Marcel Duchamp is Overrated). The photographs were taken by the late Manfred Tischer who was granted permission to document the performance by Beuys at the time, but apparently was not authorized explicitly to publish or exhibit them. When the German museum Schloss Moyland, which houses an extensive collection and archive of Beuys’s works, decided to exhibit 19 of Tischer’s photographs, the artist’s widow sued the museum of copyright infringement with the help of the German copyright society, VG Bild-Kunst. Continue reading