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Press release

The Met Announces Major New Contemporary Commissions and Installations

  • Wangechi Mutu to inaugurate annual commission series for The Met Fifth Avenue façade
  • Kent Monkman to create new paintings for the Great Hall
  • Ragnar Kjartansson's seven-channel video installation Death Is Elsewhere will have its world premiere in the Robert Lehman Wing court

(New York, March 21, 2019)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art today announced upcoming contemporary installations at The Met Fifth Avenue, including two artist commissions, for summer and fall 2019. Wangechi Mutu has been selected to create sculptures for The Met's Fifth Avenue façade niches—the first-ever such installation on the Museum's historic exterior—inaugurating a new annual artist commission series. The works will be unveiled on September 9, 2019, and be on view through June 8, 2020. Additionally, Kent Monkman will create monumental new paintings for the Museum's Great Hall, which will be on view from December 19, 2019, through April 9, 2020. This spring, The Met will also present the world premiere of Ragnar Kjartansson's immersive video installation Death Is Elsewhere (2017–19) in the Robert Lehman Wing court, where it will be on view from May 30 through September 2, 2019.

"Artists have long engaged with The Met's collection, drawing connections between contemporary practices and 5,000 years of world culture," said Max Hollein, Director of the Museum. "These projects are a manifestation of The Met's desire and ability to collaborate with artists and current artistic production in an unusual way. 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."
"The Met has long been a home for generations of artists in New York and also from across the world," said Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art. "We are honored to have Mutu, Monkman, and Kjartansson join that lineage, not only drawing inspiration from The Met's rich collections, but also thinking what it means to cross the threshold of a great Beaux-Arts building in contemporary terms."
The Museum's Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue façade and Great Hall, designed by the architect and founding Museum Trustee Richard Morris Hunt, opened to the public in December 1902. The installation of Mutu's sculptures in the façade niches is the first-ever display of art on the façade. As the Museum's grand and ceremonial welcoming space, the Great Hall often features art from across time and cultures, from the Egyptian statue of a pharaoh and the Hellenistic Greek sculpture of Athena that preside there now to more recent installations of work by Piotr Uklański (2014), Andy Warhol (2012), and John Baldessari (2010), as part of related exhibitions.
About the artists
Ragnar Kjartansson
Ragnar Kjartansson (born 1976) lives and works in Reykjavík. Considered to be one of the most dynamic and creative artists of his generation, he incorporates a variety of fine arts techniques (including painting, drawing, installation, video, and performance art) in his artistic practice, as well as elements derived from literature, theater, opera and other musical genres, film, and popular culture, to create compelling works in which he merges such things as irony and sincerity, and duration and repetition to elicit a range of emotions from the viewer. Central to his oeuvre is the exploration of the persona of the artist and that of the performer. While some of his works are characterized by elaborate sets and props, with the artist and others adopting fictional characters, other pieces are marked by an almost voyeuristic or cinema-vérité quality in which the artist and his collaborators sing and perform—separately or together—seemingly unaware of our presence, as in The Visitors (2012).
Kjartansson studied at the Iceland Academy of Arts in Reykjavík and the Royal Academy in Stockholm. He has had numerous solo exhibitions at such venues as the Reykjavík Art Museum; the Barbican Centre, London; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Park, Washington D.C.; the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the New Museum, New York; the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; the Frankfurter Kunstverein; and the BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna. Kjartansson participated in the Encyclopedic Palace at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2014. He also represented Iceland at the 2009 Venice Biennale—the youngest artist from the country to receive this honor. The artist is the recipient of the 2015 Artes Mundi's Derek Williams Trust Purchase Award, and Performa's 2011 Malcolm McLaren Award. 
Kent Monkman
Kent Monkman, born in Canada in 1965, is a Cree artist who is widely known for his provocative interventions into Western European and American art history. He explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience—the complexities of historic and contemporary Indigenous experiences—across a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. Monkman's gender-fluid alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle often appears in his work as a time-traveling, shape-shifting, supernatural being who reverses the colonial gaze to challenge received notions of history and Indigenous peoples. 
With Miss Chief at center stage, Monkman has created site-specific performances at the Royal Ontario Museum, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, Compton Verney, and the Denver Art Museum. His painting and installation works have been exhibited at numerous institutions including the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal; the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal; the Art Gallery of Ontario; the National Gallery of Canada; the Des Moines Art Centre; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art; the Musée d'art contemporain de Rochechouart, France; the Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France; Maison Rouge, Paris; and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Monkman's second nationally touring solo exhibition, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, will visit nine museums across Canada until 2020.
Monkman's award-winning short film and video works have been screened at various international festivals including the 2007 and 2008 Berlinale and the 2007 and 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Many of his media works are made with his longtime collaborator, Gisèle Gordon. Monkman has been awarded the Indspire Award (2014), the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award (2014), the Bonham Centre Award (2017), an honorary doctorate degree from OCAD University (2017), and the Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts (2017).
Wangechi Mutu
Born in Nairobi in 1972 and trained at Yale, from which she received her MFA in sculpture in 2000, Wangechi Mutu is one of the most distinguished artists of her generation. Over the years, her work has been centered on the practice of dissecting, reconstituting, and recontextualizing various ideas, images and materials, thus constructing new ways of looking at what we have already seen, or highlighting, what we have never actually looked at. In her paintings, Mutu has used collage as a way to make sense of her own experience as a woman who emigrated at a young age from her birth country Kenya, and had to describe and reconfigure herself within a population that was not familiar with her culture. Her method of meticulously slicing images apart and then restoring them to one whole arouses the consciousness of inherent alienation, and proposes the need of alternative identities to both withstand social norms and rewrite the rules that bind our imagination. An otherworldly and layered technique is present in her films, her performances, and her object works, where she ingeniously represents new versions of history, using tropes of mythology and anthropology to construct powerful female subjects. Female empowerment is the inspiration, the solution and the result of much of her work. In her three-dimensional work she portrays characters that have succumbed and succeeded, transformed and survived, and scrutinizes the inequalities of race and gender, which she also feels are inherently linked to environmental degradation. Using organic materials, metal and recycled objects, she references the mythology and classical artistic expressions of several African cultures, and delivers a compelling alternative to traditional modes of representation.
Her work has been the subject of numerous solo shows, including Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, which traveled to the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina; Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami; and Block Museum, Evanston, Illinois. Other solo exhibitions include those at SITE, Santa Fe; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; Wiels Center for Contemporary Art, Brussels; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Kunsthalle Wien; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Mutu is the recipient of Deutsche Bank's Artist of the Year award, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Award, and the American Federation of Arts' Leadership Award. Mutu's work will be featured in the upcoming 2019 Whitney Biennial.

The Facade Commission: Wangechi Mutu, The NewOnes, will free Us is made possible by Cathrin M. Stickney and Mark P. Gorenberg. Additional support is provided by the Ford Foundation, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky, Sylvie Winckler, Jerry Speyer and Katherine Farley, and the Director’s Fund.

Ragnar Kjartansson's Death Is Elsewhere is made possible in part by Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee. Additional support is provided by The Modern Circle.

The Great Hall Commission: Kent Monkman, mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People) is made possible by Marilyn and Charles Baillie and Rosamond Ivey. Additional support is provided by the Hal Jackman Foundation and the Director's Fund.



December 9, 2019

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