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WONDER celebrates the renovation and reopening of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery with an immersive web of magic. Nine major contemporary artists, including Maya Lin, Tara Donovan, Leo Villareal, Patrick Dougherty, and Janet Echelman, were invited to take over the Renwick’s galleries, transforming the entire museum into a mind-expanding cabinet of wonders. Mundane materials such as index cards, marbles, sticks, and thread are conjured into strange new worlds that demonstrate the qualities uniting these artists: a sensitivity to site and the ways we experience place, a passion for making and materiality, and a desire to provoke awe.
A wide-ranging essay by Nicholas R. Bell connects these artworks to wonder’s role throughout Western culture, to the question of how museums have evolved as places to encounter wondrous things, and to the symbolic weight of the moment as this building is “dedicated to art” for the third instance in three centuries.