For the First Time in Its History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Will Present Contemporary Sculpture on Its Grand Front Steps

The museum's director hopes the project comes across as "bold and playful."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of the Met.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of the Met.

The steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art have long served as a public front porch, allowing tourists and locals to bask in the glow of the museum’s Fifth Avenue flagship. This fall, for the first time in the august institution’s history, they’ll also be able to take in some art.

A new annual artist commission series kicks off in September with sculptures by Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu, which will be installed in the façade niches of the museum’s historic Beaux-Arts exterior.

The project comes courtesy of the institution’s new director, Max Hollein, who’s fond of taking art outside of museums: as the head of the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, he staged a Barbara Kruger mural in the windows of a local department store.

“The Met itself, the building, and its public spaces will become temporary platforms for presenting new work, offering powerful opportunities to display contemporary art for our broad audience to experience,” Hollein said in a statement.

Wangechi Mutu, <i>Water Woman</i> (2017). Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Wangechi Mutu, Water Woman (2017). Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The museum will also bring new work to its Great Hall, with monumental paintings by Kent Monkman, slated to be unveiled in December. The space is currently home to an Egyptian statue of a pharaoh and a Hellenistic Greek sculpture of Athena, but has in the past shown work by Piotr Uklański (2014), Andy Warhol (2012), and John Baldessari (2010) in conjunction with temporary exhibitions.

Finally, the Met also announced plans to host the world premiere of Ragnar Kjartansson’s immersive video installation Death Is Elsewhere (2017–19) in the Robert Lehman Wing atrium in May.

Wangechi Mutu. Courtesy of Jennifer Trahan.

Wangechi Mutu. Courtesy of Jennifer Trahan.

“If you take all of them together, it is clearly a statement that shows the Met, in it’s main building, engages with contemporary art and contemporary artists in a way that is bold but also playful,” Hollein told the New York Times.

Work by Wangechi Mutu will be on view on façade of the Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, September 9, 2019–January 12, 2020. Paintings by Kent Monkman will be on view in the museum’s Great Hall, December 19, 2019–April 12, 2020. “Ragnar Kjartansson: Death is Elsewhere” will be on view in the Robert Lehman Wing atrium May 30–September 2, 2019.


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