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Exhibitions/ Oliver Beer: Vessel Orchestra

Oliver Beer: Vessel Orchestra

July 2–August 11, 2019

Exhibition Overview

Composed of thirty-two sculptures, utilitarian containers, and decorative objects from the Museum's collection, Vessel Orchestra is the first sound-based installation commissioned by The Met. British artist Oliver Beer (born 1985) uses microphones and speakers to amplify and shape the ambient tones resonating within each vessel, transforming them into an arresting and unexpectedly versatile musical instrument. With objects ranging in origin from ancient Persia to modern America, this exhibition links works of art across historical periods and cultures, creating an audible portrait of The Met collection.

Drawing on his musical training, Beer creates artworks that reveal the hidden properties of objects, bodies, and architectural sites. His social and familial relationships often become the blueprint for multidisciplinary works that engage with both intimate and universal concerns, such as the personal and cultural meanings invested in the things we possess.

During Museum hours, a pre-programmed audio interface plays a new composition written by Beer, animating the vessels in real time—"player-piano style." On Friday evenings, a diverse group of guest musicians activate the vessels, performing new compositions and improvisations in a series of intimate concerts. Performers include: Ekmeles, Bruce Brubaker, Mashrou Leila, Nico Muhly, Matana Roberts, Women's Raga Massive, and John Zorn.

View the full schedule of performances.


Featured Media


"[Turns] the Met's collection into an instrument of impressive flexibility." —New York Times

"A one-of-a-kind art exhibition . . ." —WNYC

"Ask[s] people to notice the world of vibrations hiding just beyond the limits of human hearing." —Pitchfork

This performance installation is made possible in part by Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky.

Related Content

Gallery view of Oliver Beer Vessel Orchestra exhibition featuring different vessels from the museum, an audio system, and speakers.

Go behind the scenes with exhibition co-curator Lauren Rosati and artist Oliver Beer as they discuss the process and inspiration for his sound installation Vessel Orchestra.

Exhibition Objects

Oliver Beer (British, b. 1985). Vessel Orchestra (detail), 2019. 32 hollow objects from The Met collection, microphones, speakers, keyboard, and associated audio equipment. © Oliver Beer, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac