Media Advisory — Press Preview for Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light

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Laura Baptiste
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Press preview for exhibition “Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light” and behind-the-scenes opportunity to see inner workings of avant-garde light sculptures. 


Thursday, Oct. 5
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
: 11 a.m.
Remarks: 11:30 a.m.


Smithsonian American Art Museum
Enter at Eighth and G streets N.W.


Virginia Mecklenburg, chief curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Keely Orgeman, assistant curator, Yale University Art Gallery
Dan Finn, media conservator, Smithsonian American Art Museum


Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light” features 15 light compositions by Thomas Wilfred (1889–1968), shown together for the first time in nearly 50 years. This pioneering artist’s spellbinding light compositions, which he referred to collectively as “lumia,” display ever-changing colored forms against a black background, like an aurora borealis emerging from and disappearing into the night sky. Notable artists of his time, such as Jackson Pollock, László Moholy-Nagy and Katherine Dreier, recognized Wilfred as an innovator.

Wilfred had disappeared from the story of American modernism as his works became hard to maintain and were consequently relegated to museums’ storage. Extensive research and reassembly by conservators has made it possible to present the works now in their original form. This groundbreaking exhibition restores Wilfred to his rightful place in the history of modern art.

Information about the exhibition is available in an online press kit,

“Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light” was organized by Keely Orgeman, the Alice and Allan Kaplan Assistant Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale University Art Gallery and was made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art. The presentation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum is a collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Generous funding for the exhibition was provided by the Elizabeth Broun Curatorial Endowment, the James F. Dicke Family Endowment and the scan | design Foundation.

Interested media should RSVP to Photographers and film crews are welcome; please contact the office in advance to make arrangements. Requests for one-on-one interviews may be made in advance with Laura Baptiste by email at

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About the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the flagship museum of American art and craft. It is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. The museum’s main building, located at 8th and G Streets N.W., is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum’s Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check online for current hours and admission information. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website:

Press Images

  • Press - Lumia

    Press - Lumia

    Thomas Wilfred, Unit #86, from the Clavilux Junior (First Home Clavilux Model) series, 1930. Metal, glass, electrical and lighting elements, and an illustration-board screen in a wood cabinet. Carol and Eugene Epstein Collection