Metro Weekly

Spotlight: Touring the Phillips Collection Virtually

The Phillips Collection offers a virtual "Gallery Tour" of "Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition"

phillips collection, museum, art, dc
Philips Collection, Riffs and Relation — Kandinsky, Sketch; Monet, Woman with Parasol; Janet Taylor Pickett, And She was Born, 2017

The Phillips Collection was only a few weeks into a planned three-month run of its latest temporary exhibition when it was forced to close down to wait out COVID-19.

Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition surveyed the important yet complicated influence of, and interplay between, a number of early 20th century European artists — Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, and Wassily Kandinsky among them — and a bevy of African-American artists from last century through today, including Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Carrie Mae Weems, and Hale Woodruff.

While the physical exhibition is no longer on public display, its bones and guiding framework can be found online, chiefly through a “Gallery Tour” of six short bursts of video posted to the Phillips’ YouTube channel, and eight longer recordings drawn from the exhibition’s audio tour with insights from the curator, scholars, and artists, plus an excerpt from a piano concert inspired by the show.

The Phillips’ mobile app is likely the easiest way to wander through that temporary collection. The app makes it easy to take virtual forays through the Phillips’ permanent collection in a treasure trove of audio tours and video guides.

One historical aside worth noting: The museum, which will turn 100 next year, was founded by Duncan Phillips to find solace and healing through art in the wake of the one-two punch of his father’s death and then, only one year later, his brother’s, a consequence of the last major pandemic to ravage the country: the 1918 Spanish Flu.

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