An exhibition of photos offers a rare look at the hard-to-see artwork that’s been atop the District’s John A. Wilson Building for more than a century.
The images by Colin Winterbottom capture the work of Italian immigrant Adolfo de Nesti — 28 sculptures based on de Nesti’s plaster models, each carved into 9-foot-tall marble sculptures by Ernest Bairstow and set along the perimeter of the Wilson Building’s roof.
Photos of the stories-high artwork were captured between 2016 and 2019, when a building restoration project required scaffolding around the entire building. Winterbottom used this scaffolding to his advantage, according to a release from the D.C. Council announcing the exhibition.
“Through his expertise and comfort working in this unusual venue, he is able to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime vantage points the scaffolding provides,” the statement said. “By doing so, despite our familiarity with these buildings, he allows us to see them in a brand new way.”
Exhibit photos have been installed along the stair landings from the ground floor of the building up to the fifth floor.
“Echoing the larger-than-life sculpture located outside the building’s fifth floor, two truly monumental photographs are installed atop both staircases, visible from the prominent principal hallway outside the Council Chamber,” the release said.
To best view the exhibits, you can enter the Wilson Building’s main entrance along Pennsylvania Avenue between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. (a mask is required) and walk up one of the grand staircases. Once you ascend to the chamber hallway on the top floor, cross the council chamber and descend the opposite staircase.