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all photos: Stephanie Breijo
all words: Hilary Galbreaith

Prior to all the hurricane insanity this weekend, The Phillips Collection opened its doors Thursday evening for the last August installment of “Phillips after 5,” which featured live music, gallery talks, tequila tasting, D.C’s favorite food trucks, yogacrobats, and jugglers from 5-8:30 pm. There was already a sizable crowd milling around in front of the Phillips Collections’ main building when I arrived at 5:30, and as I got closer it became apparent why: two local food trucks, Curbside Cupcakes and The Rolling Ficelle, were parked directly in front of the entrance and were doing quick sales with the “Phillips after 5” attendees.

Not quite ready for cupcakes and hoping to snag some free tequila, I bypassed the trucks and went inside, where after several minutes of waiting in the will call line I was given a clip-on lapel pass and a lurid orange bracelet and directed back to the tequila tasting table that had been set up in the gift shop. There I was hurriedly given a very small sample of the “medium” tequila, which was light and mellow, and then, upon my request to try another one, a tiny sample of the “dark,” which tasted and smelled slightly of mesquite.

Having finished my quest for free liquor, I decided it was time to see some art and to hunt down the much-raved about “Benglethiopian” food truck, Fojol Bros., which was reportedly parked just around the corner of the block. I wandered through the ground floor until I came to the door leading out to the Hunter courtyard, which was doing duty as a beer, wine and margarita garden for the evening. The area also featured one of the highlights of the art currently on display at the Phillips Collection: a large, round woven-steel sculpture created by internationally renowned artist Balasubramanian specifically for the Hunter Courtyard as part of a two-part installation titled Sk(in). (The second half of the installation was in the adjacent gallery room and featured more minimalist organic shapes, cracks and creases built into the plaster wall itself, in stark contrast to the massive, red, geometric structure outside.)

I followed the sound of music out through the Hunter courtyard to the alley beyond, where a few smaller galleries had set up shop with live music and where I finally found the Fojol Bros. truck parked in front of a bright blue dumpster. In the narrow walkway between the dumpster and the already very, very long line for Fojol lentils, collard greens and ginger pops, a yogacrobat and a juggler had rolled out yoga mats and were performing for anyone who would stop to look (or who was willing to be lifted up to become a part of the performance.)

I had been staring transfixed at a yogacrobat holding a juggling Fojol employee in the air with her legs when I was informed by one of the organizers that “the tequila man” had arrived, and that the earlier tequila tasting had not actually been the real event.

I hurried back inside for the real thing, and was delighted to get a much larger sampling of a pure blue agave tequila before heading upstairs to see the temporary exhibit “Kandinsky and The Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border.” The Kandinsky rooms were packed with groups of people discussing the merits of “Painting with White Border” and its precursors with a fervor rarely heard in the presence of such old, established works. But this was no ordinary museum exhibit; this was “Phillips After 5,” and the live music, free booze and yoga acrobatics imbued even the oldest pieces in the permanent collection with a sense of freshness and contemporary awesomeness that brought the Phillips Collection vibrantly to life.