DAN GRAHAM on the roof of the Met, New York
The sun shone, the sky was blue. It was a perfect day for the inauguration of the latest Roof Garden Commission at New York's Met.
This idea began in 1999 using "a leftover space' now popular for summer art, lunchtime sandwiches + breathtaking views of Central Park or martini cocktails on romantic weekend evenings.Previous artists have included Jeff Koons & Andy Goldsworthy. This time it's Dan Graham's turn, with a stylish S-curve steel & glass Pavilion.
Admired for his wide ranging multidisciplinary practice - video, writing, performance. photography & sculptural environments of mirrored glass- this self-taught artist is a hero to many, especially in Europe. In 2007 he collaborated on "Don't trust anyone over 30." (He's now 72! )
When I first went to NY in 1982 DAN GRAHAM was a key name. I first saw one of his 'Pavilions' in the early 1990s on the Dia roof in Chelsea when there were only 3 other galleries there. Since then he has made a career out of freestanding walk-in Pavilions - lots in France, Belgium (where, he tells me, his work is fabricated,) London, Japan, Brazil & Vienna. Tom Campbell
This one is special as it relates so well to its surroundings of Central Park, which soon, (leaves very late this year due to the Siberian winter NY has endured) will be an oasis of green. In addition the Met's roof is covered with lush green lawn (actually 2nd generation astroturf which is amazingly real) and the pavilion (strangely no roof to this) has high ivy walls.
Graham began using hedges in the 1980s, " I am fascinated by banal suburbia & by ancient Chinese gardens. also by English gardens like Stowe." He also quotes artist Larry Bell as a major inspiration. No surprise; Bell's use of glass is exciting. He also loves "the convex & concave - and the psychedelic.""My pavilions derive their meaning from the people who look at themselves and others, and who are being looked at themselves," he says. "Without people in them, they might look a bit like minimal-art sculptures, but that's not what they're meant to be." He ad-libbed,"It's a fun house for kids & a photo op for parents. Little girls dance in front of them; boys pretend to be superman. My work is child-friendly. It's playful!"
This was immediately proved by the adults present who dotted in & out of Graham's huge glass walls, both transparent & reflective simultaneously. I'm not convinced it "create a different space which disorients the viewer'. But, yes it's fun. It all alters as sunlight changes, & will be much less interesting on a dull day. But visitors can still have fun viewing each other superimposed on reflections of Manhatten's famous skyline.
His pavilions, originally rectilinear, are created for public experience, & blur the line between sculpture, architecture & art. With its elegant curves of steel & glass, the structure has overtones of sleek skyscraper facades & modern office towers. As the Met's British duo, director Tom Campbell, (ex Courtauld) & Chairman of Modern & Contemporary Art, Sheena Wagstaff (ex Tate Modern) explained, the work was a collaboration with many fabricators led by Swiss landscape architect Vogt, professor at Harvard & Zurich, who designed for Fifa, London's Olympic Village & Tate Modern. For a small structure it sure took a long list of folk to create Sheena Wagstaff
The event is accompanied by a lovely little book containing a great interview between Graham & Wagstaff, plus a small show of his projects downstairs.
P & C on the Roof
NB. Any artist commissioned for the Met's roof has a BIG problem.
The view. Can't be beat!