On the Spot: Klaus Ottmann

March 21, 2013
Laib_03_LeeStalsworth

A musky odor wafts from a former utility closet on the Phillips Collection’s third floor. The culprit: about 660 pounds of beeswax, coating the walls of German artist Wolfgang Laib’s “Where have you gone, where are you going?” The 6-by-7-by-10-foot room, lit by a single bare bulb, is the museum’s first permanent installation since its Rothko Room opened in 1960. Curator Klaus Ottmann was instrumental in bringing the work to the Phillips.

This is a very modern work for the Phillips Collection. Is it accessible?
I think it is very accessible in that you don’t need to know anything about art or the artist to experience it. Both this and the Rothko Room are sacred spaces — small and intimate, and the work is so powerful.

Where’s the wax from?
Wolfgang sources his wax from a candle factory near where he lives in southern Germany, collected from local beekeepers. He likes the consistency of the colors.

Why make it permanent?
If we move it, we have to destroy it.

A few people were sneezing inside the room. Are allergies an issue?
The smell is intense, and people get a little freaked out. People get allergic just by looking at it.

Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW; $12; 202-387-2151. (Dupont Circle)
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Marc Silver · March 21, 2013