Encounter with an Effigy

Messager effigies_Rachel Burley

Installation view of Annette Messager’s Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies) (1989-90). Photo: Rachel Burley

Messager effigies detail_Rachel Burley

Detail, Annette Messager’s Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies) (1989-90). Photo: Rachel Burley

One of my favorite rooms at The Phillips Collection is the gallery just to the right of the entrance that’s currently displaying recent acquisitions. The large, open room is full of interesting pieces that remind me how revolutionary art can be, and how avant-garde the masterpieces in the permanent collection were in their own time. Currently hanging on the right wall is one of Annette Messager’s captivating installations, Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies). I have to admit that I did not initially approach this work with any critical art historical eye, but instead was drawn to it because the hanging animals reminded me of the Beanie Babies collection I had when I was young. As I moved toward the installation to study it closer, however, all juvenile connections fell away. Although not without humor, it elicits quite a somber mood. 13 stuffed animals, holding 13 framed body parts, hang on brown string in front of 13 framed and handwritten letters. Colorful dogs, bears, cats, and even hugging otters present black and white photographs of eyes, noses, mouths, and the backs of knees. They can’t help but seem like portraits, especially when the framed writing behind them announces what they are—hesitation, confusion, obstacle, reconciliation.

What is exceptional about Messager’s installation is how quickly and powerfully it engages the viewer’s imagination. Who are these effigies to her? And who might they be to me? The unexpected visual cues inspire endless interpretations, which is the mark of great art.

Rachel Burley, Marketing & Communications Intern

A Lego Challenge By the Numbers

Legos at Pa5 Photo Collage

Phillips after 5 visitors use Legos to create sculptures inspired by the work of Danish artist Per Kirkeby

135 participants of all ages

3,300 Legos of all sizes

89 total Instragrams

51 submissions

8 winners

3 hours of fun

The Phillips’s first-ever Lego challenge was a great success! The tables in the Main Gallery were packed all night with Phillips after 5 guests who built their own Per Kirkeby-inspired masterpieces. Visitors snapped photos of their creations with Instagram and tagged their pictures #PhillipsPlaysWell, in honor of Lego’s Danish roots, for a chance to win prizes. Check out winning photos below, and find the rest of the submissions @phillipscollection on Instagram.

Margaret Collerd,  Public Programs and In-gallery Interpretation Coordinator

Lego winners collage

The winning photos. Clockwise from top left: Windy Tree by Andrew M., Fallen Tree III by cerin, Untitled by ianjannetta, Untitled by mrsmerkel, New Shadows by Jessica, Sans Titre by Chris Z., and On the Floor by matthewbaileyseigel.

Play Well

Instagramed images of lego sculptures paired with the Per Kirkeby paintings that inspired them

Left to right: Lego man amidst the trees by Margaret Collerd, inspired by Per Kirkeby’s Untitled (2009); Climbing Shadows by Amy Wike, inspired by Per Kirkeby’s New Shadows V (1996); Fire Engine #5 by Michelle Herman, inspired by Per Kirkeby’s Inferno V (1992)

Phillips staff with bins of legos, creating sculptures

Phillips staff use images from Per Kirkeby’s exhibition to inspire Lego sculptures.

Did you know that LEGO is an abbreviation of two Danish words–“leg godt”–meaning “play well”? Neither did I! But I took this inspiring etymology to heart when developing a Lego challenge for the upcoming January 3 Arctic Expedition Phillips after 5. Inspired by Danish artist Per Kirkeby’s layered colorful abstractions, Phillips staff built our own Lego sculptures. Like kids on Christmas morning, we spread out on my office floor with focused attention to come up with our own Lego creations and Instagram them.

On January 3, you have a chance to “play well,” and win a host of prizes! Visit the museum during Phillips after 5 (5–8:30 pm; be sure to make a reservation) and peruse the Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture exhibition for inspiration. Then stop by the Lego tables, build your own sculpture, and share it on Instagram with the title of your choice and #PhillipsPlaysWell. You’ll be entered to win great prizes, including a Phillips Contemporaries membership, tickets to The Kennedy Center’s Nordic Cool festival opening concert, a one-year Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) membership, and more. Follow us on Instagram (@phillipscollection) for some pre-event inspiration.

Margaret Collerd,  Public Programs and In-gallery Interpretation Coordinator