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5 Reasons to See ‘The Warmth of Other Suns’ at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC
This major art exhibition at America's first modern art museum addresses the global refugee crisis in stunning detail.
In partnership with the New Museum in New York, The Phillips Collection has put together an in-depth display featuring more than 75 artists, each one wrestling with and posing questions about migration, both throughout history and in the current moment. The incredibly moving exhibit’s full title is The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement. Throughout, visitors will be reminded of the struggles that migrants face at every stage of their journeys, collectively and individually. The exhibit is on display through Sept. 22. Read on for details of what you can expect inside this of-the-moment presentation.
The Warmth of Other Suns utilizes videos, installations, paintings, documentary images, sculptures and cultural materials to illustrate the trials and tribulations that refugees and migrants face, as well as their resilience and collective strength in facing nearly impossible obstacles. There’s John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea, a 48-minute, three-channel video installation that parallels sea and migration in striking ways. There’s Kader Attia’s La Mer Morte, a collection of clothes and shoes that calls attention to bodies never found, lost in voyages across the Mediterranean Sea. There’s Augustus Sherman’s Ellis Island Series, photographic portraits from the early 1900s that depict some of the millions of immigrants who passed through the port. These are just a few examples of the powerful pieces found inside the exhibit, all forming a complex and emotional narrative on migration.
Make no mistake: The Warmth of Other Suns is a global exhibit, enlightening visitors on migrant crises they may have heard about on today’s news, as well as on situations rarely highlighted on televisions or in history books. Featured artistic and photojournalistic work covers the U.S. and Mexico, but also the UK, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Ghana, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Belgium and many more. In total, the exhibit touches five continents through both personal and historical perspectives.
From the consequences of violence and war to political circumstances to humanitarian crises, the exhibit deals with numerous manners of and reasons for dislocation. Across three floors, The Warmth of Other Suns addresses the forced migration of African slaves to the U.S., the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South, displacements resulting from the Kosovo War in 1998-99, mass emigration from Italy from 1876-1976, the Dust Bowl, attempted crossings and brutal policies at the Israeli-Pakistani and U.S.-Mexico borders and much, much more.
With the plethora of art that it features, The Warmth of Other Suns showcases many pieces that have received little to no exposure in other DC museums, including Erkan Özgen’s impactful Wonderland video, which features a deaf and mute boy named Muhammad translating his experience of escaping an Islamic State attack in Syria, and Rokni Haerizadeh’s work, in which he prints and then paints over stills from YouTube videos depicting social repression and violence in the Middle East. Mixed in are essential works that viewers may recognize, including John Moore’s award-winning photo of Yanela Sanchez at the U.S.-Mexico border, Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photo and Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series, which served as inspiration for the exhibit.
In honor of this poignant exhibit, The Phillips Collection is hosting dynamic public programming throughout the run of The Warmth of Other Suns, including film screenings, family programs, open discussions, concerts and overview talks that highlight specific works of art from the exhibition. Check out The Phillips Collection’s website to view all that’s in store.