Listing The Met Museum's Roof Garden Commissions So Far

Artwork(s) In Focus, Top Lists

February 15, 2021

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is one of the best-known cultural institutions in the world with a humongous collection of artifacts that span through the entire history of our civilization. However, this grand enterprise has many facilities with varying and well-curated programs that are more oriented on contemporary production.

The most interesting is the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, a space opened for the public in 1987 on a rooftop near the southwestern corner of the museum. Consisting of a café and bar where the visitors can take a break during their visit and enjoy the impressive skyline, the Roof Garden has been hosting single-artist exhibitions since 1998, and since the early 2000s has become home to some astonishing commissions.

After several artworks installed in the garden, The Met announced a new commission by the artist Alex Da Corte, a site-specific installation titled As Long as the Sun Lasts. To express his excitement, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, Max Hollein, stated the following:

We are thrilled that Alex Da Corte will bring his imaginative vision to the Cantor Roof Garden this spring. The installation, which the artist initiated as the pandemic first took hold of the world, evokes notions of uncertainty, nostalgia, sadness, and hope so inherent in our turbulent times. With this commission, Da Corte has created a work of art that meets the present moment and its challenges with the promise of optimism. 

To bring the new work, Alex Da Corte has been working on a new installation in close dialog with Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Shanay Jhaveri, Assistant Curator of International Modern and Contemporary Art, both of The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Now, before Da Corte’s installation is unveiled for the public on 16 April 2021, let us revisit the former Roof Garden commissions at The Met Museum.

Featured image: Huma Bhabha - The Roof Garden Commission: We Come in Peace. Installation view, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018. © Huma Bhabha, courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Hyla Skopitz.

Héctor Zamora – Lattice Detour

The first Met Roof Garden commission on our list is a site-specific titled Lattice Detour made by the artist Héctor Zamora. He is renowned for his public works aimed to question the borders between the public and the private, organic and geometric, real and imaginary.

This intervention on the Roof Garden in December 2020 is an actual concave brick wall that determines the way one moves across space and observes the cityscape. Lattice Detour is reminiscent of celosía walls, the structures that provide shade and ventilation typical for the vernacular architecture of the Middle East, Africa, Iberia, and Latin America.

Featured image: Héctor Zamora - The Roof Garden Commission: Lattice Detour. Installation view, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2020. Terracotta bricks, mortar, steel, 132 x 1212 in. (335.28 x 3078.48 cm). Courtesy of the artist and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen.

Alicja Kwade - ParaPivot

In 2019 Alicja Kwade, a Polish-German contemporary visual artist saluted for her minimalistic sculptures and installations focused on the subjectivity of time and space, was commissioned to release a new work for the Roof Garden. The two sculptures titled ParaPivot I and II consist of steel frames that intersect at an oblique angle. The nine massive floating spheres attached to the structure are made of carved and polished stones of different types from nine different countries.

ParaPivot I and II can move outward around multiple axis points and imitate the orbital pathways of the globes. As such, the sculptures are reminiscent of the astrolabe, a scientific device invented in ancient Greece and adopted by Islamic astronomers in the medieval period to determine the trajectory of the stars and planets.

Featured image: Alicja Kwade - The Roof Garden Commission: ParaPivot. Installation view (detail), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019. Courtesy of the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin/London; and kamel mennour, Paris/London. Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Hyla Skopitz.

Huma Bhabha - We Come in Peace

The esteemed Pakistani artist Huma Bhabha was invited to produce a site-specific installation for the Roof Garden in 2017. The result was the work titled We Come in Peace, consisting of two sculptures - the 12-foot-tall five-headed intersex figure (We Come in Peace), and the 18-foot-long prostrate Benaam (an Urdu word that translates as “without a name”).

Both are juxtaposed one against another in a rather dramatic manner and are evocative of the tales of foreign visitation. While creating the work, Bhabha was inspired by the classic American science-fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Featured image: Huma Bhabha - The Roof Garden Commission: We Come in Peace. Installation view, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018. © Huma Bhabha, courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Hyla Skopitz.

Adrián Villar Rojas - The Theater of Disappearance

The same year as Bhabha, the Argentinian artist known for his large-scale installations, Adrián Villar Rojas, was invited to create a new installation for The Met’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. She released a total of 16 sculptures that combine human figures with replicas of nearly one hundred objects from the Museum’s collection, as well as an extension of the existing pergola, new plantings, public furniture, and a newly designed bar.

To accomplish his idea, the artist was in conversation with the employees at the institution to find out more about the museum’s history and its collection.

Featured image: Adrián Villar Rojas - The Roof Garden Commission: The Theater of Disappearance. Installation view, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017. Courtesy of the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery; and Kurimanzutto, Mexico City. Photographed by Jörg Baumann.

Cornelia Parker - Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)

In 2016, the acclaimed British artist Cornelia Parker was invited to produce a new work for the Roof Garden. Titled Transitional Object (PsychoBarn), this large-scale sculpture nearly 30 feet high was inspired by Edward Hopper’s paintings of and two emblems of American architecture such as the classic red barn and the Bates family’s sinister mansion from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho.

The sculpture is infused by the psychoanalytic theory of transitional objects used by children to help negotiate their self-identity as separate from their parents.

Featured image: Cornelia Parker - The Roof Garden Commission: Transitional Object (PsychoBarn). Installation view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. Photographed by Alex Fradkin, Photo courtesy the artist.

Pierre Huyghe

After being commissioned in 2015, the celebrated French artist Pierre Huyghe released a new series of site-specific. Famed for the way he devotedly explored different rituals and immersive encounters, Huyghe made an evolving enterprise that continuously generates itself; a dynamic interplay of interconnected parts, objects, and living entities, that emerge, transmute, or disappear in a transitional state - from the behavior of living fossils active in a pulsating glass tank to a leak that crosses thresholds.

Featured image: Pierre Huyghe - The Roof Garden Commission: Pierre Huyghe. Installation view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. Photography by Hyla Skopitz, The Photograph Studio, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Copyright 2015.

Dan Graham with Günther Vogt - Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout

This Roof Garden commission was made by the famous American artist Dan Graham in collaboration with the Swiss landscape architect Günther Vogt. The concave-convex glass structure that is part modernist skyscraper façade, part garden maze, located within a specially engineered terrain, creates a visually compelling environment for visitors.

Graham is one of the leading proponents of Minimal art, known for his fascination with architecture and the way structures frame the public space. With this work, the artist recalled the pavilions of 17th- and 18th-century formal gardens, architectural fantasies inspired by classical antiquity, but also forms and materials of glass facades of modern office towers.

Featured image: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt - The Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt. Installation view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Imran Qureshi

The last commission on our top list is the first US large-scale installation by the Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi. He was inspired by the miniaturists who worked for the Mughal court (1526–1857) while creating lush patterns executed from his spills of paint. Furthermore, these vivacious miniatures show how swell Qureshi combines detailed landscapes with figures in modern attire, images of contemporary life in Pakistan, or portraits of himself at work.

Time-Lapse: The Roof Garden Commission, Imran Qureshi

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