New York real estate is a rare and pricey commodity. Even in a space as big as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, unused corners are wasted opportunities. For nearly 117 years, this thought has troubled the museum: When architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the building’s Beaux Arts façade, he flanked the front entrance with four niches, replete with pedestals, in anticipation of a series of commissioned figures from artist Karl Bitter. But the statues were never completed. Funding ran low, and the work was abandoned. The museum façade was finished in 1902, but the niches have remained empty ever since, largely unnoticed by museum visitors and passersby—until now.
This fall, Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu fills the spaces with statues of Afro-futuristic women who employ the pedestals as thrones, inaugurating what will be an annual commission for The Met’s façade. As with the rooftop commission, the museum hopes the façade installations will further the dialogue between an encyclopedic collection of artworks dating back as far as 5,000 years ago with those being made today. The NewOnes, will free Us (2019), Mutu’s site-specific installation, rises to the challenge as her tranquil yet stately figures breathe life into the overlooked front of the building…
Image: Wangechi Mutu, The Seated II, 2019, for the Facade Commission: Wangechi Mutu, The NewOnes, will free Us, 2019
Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Image courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: Bruce Schwarz