Created by the artist Carol Bove (born 1971), The séances aren’t helping is the second commission to be featured on the facade of The Met Fifth Avenue. Working improvisationally, Bove sculpts at scale and in the round, without any preparatory drawings. For this commission, she used a one-to-one mock-up of the Museum’s empty niches to construct four abstract sculptures made of sandblasted, contorted stainless-steel tubes and five-foot-wide reflective aluminum disks. Despite the weight and heft of these sculptures, they appear astoundingly lithe and supple, almost mercurial—an effect Bove achieves by pushing her materials to their physical limits. Projecting outward from the niches, the works confound perception.
For her sculptures, Bove chose a series of nonrepresentational forms that resonate with modernist styles such as Art Deco and abstraction—a stark contrast to the traditional figurative sculptures that the architect Richard Morris Hunt intended to feature (yet never realized) on the facade, which was completed in 1902. Bove based the size of the aluminum disks on the diameter of the columns that flank the Museum’s niches and the medallion portraits that adorn the spandrels of the arches. The differing orientations result in a playful rhythmic pattern, yielding a frisson of delight that might throw us slightly off balance. By astutely engaging the Museum’s 119-year-old facade, reimagining its history, and retooling some of its architectural and design elements, the artist subtly calls for us to reevaluate and reckon with the legacies of tradition. As the title—The séances aren’t helping—suggests and Bove’s works demonstrate, grappling with the past can be a challenging yet powerful exercise.
The exhibition is made possible by the Director’s Fund, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, Helene and Johannes Huth, and Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky.
Additional support is provided by the John & Amy Griffin Foundation, Inc. and the Speyer Family Foundation.
Education programs are sponsored by David Zwirner.
Go behind the scenes with artist Carol Bove, who discusses the inspiration and making of The séances aren’t helping.