Wolfgang Laib’s Wax Room

Wolfgang Laib’s Wax Room

Phillips Collection

Wolfgang Laib, Wax Room (Wohin bist Du gegangen–wohin gehst Du?/Where have you gone–where are you going?), 2013. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Photo: Lee Stalsworth.

March 1, 2013

Laib Wax Room
Opens March 2, 2013

The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C.
Dupont Circle Metro (Q Street exit)
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10–5pm; Sunday 11–6pm; Thursday extended hours 5–8:30pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day,
and New Year’s Day

T 202 387 2151


Lined with fragrant beeswax and illuminated by a single bare light bulb, Wax Room (2013) is the first permanent wax room created by German artist Wolfgang Laib (b. 1950) for a specific museum. It is also the first permanently installed artwork at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., since the museum’s Rothko Room opened in 1960. The artist installed the work in a space he helped to select in the original Phillips house. Accommodating one to two people at a time, it provides a personal, contemplative experience.

Laib visited the Rothko Room for the first time in October 2011, and it left a profound impression. “A wax chamber has a very deep and open relationship to Rothko’s paintings,” he explains. To enter a wax room, Laib says, is to be “in another world, maybe on another planet and in another body.”

The installation was overseen by Klaus Ottmann, the Phillips’s curator at large, who in 2000 organized the first retrospective of Laib’s works at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

Laib began working in beeswax in 1988 and has used removable wax panels to create wax rooms for exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1988); the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Germany (1989); the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, the Netherlands (1990); and the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany (1992). Laib went on to create several beeswax chambers outdoors—his first, created in 2000, is situated in a mountain in the French Pyrenees and is accessible only by footpath; his most recent is on his property in southern Germany.

The Laib Wax Room is supported by The Phillips Collection Dreier Fund for Acquisitions; gifts in memory of trustee Caroline Macomber; Brian Dailey and Paula Ballo Dailey; a community of online contributors; and a partial gift of the artist. Wax donated by Sperone Westwater, New York. Funds are still being accepted for this significant project.

About the artist
Over four decades, Wolfgang Laib has used organic substances associated with life-giving sustenance—milk, pollen, beeswax, rice—to create art of extreme simplicity and meditative power. In 1975, he created his first Milkstone, an ongoing series in which the slight concavity of a polished white marble slab is filled daily with fresh milk. Laib’s pollen pieces are also highly ritualistic—in spring and summer the artist collects dandelion, hazelnut, pine, buttercup, and moss pollens from fields surrounding his home and then displays the delicate material in simple jars or sifted directly onto the gallery floor. Wolfgang Laib’s Pollen from Hazelnut, his largest pollen piece to date at roughly 18 by 21 feet, is on view in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art in New York through March 11, 2013.

Wolfgang Laib lives and works in Germany and India. Born in Metzingen in 1950, the artist studied medicine and in 1972 began making artwork after a three-month stay in India, where he was inspired by the simple shapes of objects used in everyday life as well as in religious ceremonies. His work has been the focus of major exhibitions in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, and is represented in numerous private and public collections. 


The Phillips Collection presents Wolfgang Laib's Wax Room
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March 1, 2013

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