The Smithsonian American Art Museum commissioned Janet Echelman to create an artwork to transform the Renwick Gallery’s iconic Grand Salon. The WONDER Exhibition, the Renwick Gallery’s first after an intensive 2-year renovation, “transforms the entire museum into an immersive artwork.” Echelman’s sculpture has since been acquired by the museum for their permanent collection and remains on display.

Echelman created a soft, voluminous net sculpture that surges through the air of the hundred-foot length Grand Salon, intersecting with its historic cove ceiling. The complex form is composed of many layers of twines, knotted together in vibrant hues that interplay with colored light and “shadow drawings” on the walls. A carefully choreographed lighting program subtly changes the experience of sculpture with every perspective. Visitors find themselves transported into a dreamlike state, gazing skyward at an ethereal choreography of undulating color.

A 4,000 square-foot textile floor echoes the organic topography of the aerial form in monochromatic hues, providing a playful contrast to the vibrant hues of the sculpture’s 51 miles of twine above. The flooring is composed of regenerated nylon fibers repurposed from discarded fishing nets.

The work’s title is 1.8 Renwick, which refers to the length of time measured in microseconds that the earth’s day was shortened as a result of a physical event, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan with devastating effects. The forms in the sculpture and carpet were inspired by data sets of the Tsunami wave heights across the Pacific Ocean. The artwork reminds us of our complex interdependencies with larger cycles of time and matter. Its physical presence is a manifestation of interconnectedness - when any one element in the sculpture moves, every other element is affected. “As individuals we may feel fragile, like a length of thread,” said Echelman, “but when knotted together we have the capacity for incredible strength and resiliency.”


High-Molecular-Weight-Polyethylene, High-Tenacity-Polyester, Colored LED Lighting, Fans, Control System, Textile Flooring, and Textile filled with Close-cell Beads
Dimensions of net: 78 ft. length x 33 ft. width x 20 ft. depth
Installation Dimensions: 100 ft. length x 40 ft. width x 40 ft. height


Artist: Janet Echelman
Studio Echelman Team: Daniel Zeese, Melissa Henry, Cameron Chateauneuf, Lucca Townsend
Commissioned by: The Smithsonian American Art Museum
Engineering: Arup: Clayton Binkley, Patrick McCafferty
Simulation Software Engineering: Autodesk
Lighting: Arup: Brian Stacy, Jake Wayne, Robbie Hayes
Photography: Brian Stacy, Ron Cogswell


Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.