Wangechi Mutu at the Metropolitan Museum of Art


THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART in New York and the Tate Modern in London recently announced new artist commissions.

The Met plans a series of contemporary art installations at its Fifth Avenue flagship. For one of the projects, Wangechi Mutu is creating sculptures that will be installed in the niches in the museum’s Fifth Avenue facade. The works will be unveiled in the fall, marking the first time in the Met’s nearly 150-year history that its grand Beaux-Arts exterior has been utilized for the display of art.

New York-based Kara Walker (shown at right) is the latest artist tapped for the Tate Modern’s annual Hyundai Commission in Turbine Hall. The installation will respond to the industrial scale of the iconic space. (It’s 155 feet in length, 75 feet wide, and 115 feet high.) In terms of context, the project will consider London and British history, serving as a compelling counterpoint to Walker’s well-known interrogation of the vestiges of American slavery and the antebellum South.

The site-specific installation follows “A Subtlety,” Walker’s first-ever, large-scale public art work presented in 2014. Staged in the old Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn, N.Y., the ambitious, provocative, and wildly popular installation was a massive handkerchief-wearing, sugar-coated sphinx figure. The work examined the history of the sugar trade, its labor practices, and lingering legacy.

In a statement, Frances Morris, director of the Tate Modern said, “Kara Walker fearlessly tackles some of the most complex issues we face today. Her work addresses history and identity with a powerful directness, but also with great understanding, nuance and wit.” Given this, she said seeing what Walker envisions for Turbine Hall “is a hugely exciting proposition.”

Seeing what Walker envisions for Turbine Hall “is a hugely exciting proposition.” — Frances Morris, Tate Modern

Special commissions in Turbine Hall were inaugurated in 2000 when Louise Bourgeois installed, “I Do, I Undo and I Redo,” described as her most ambitious project to date (which was sponsored by Unilever).

The Hyundai-sponsored commissions are slated for 10 years. Thus far, five artists (including Walker) have been invited to participate in the annual program. Walker is the first black artist selected to create an installation for Turbine Hall and the first American artist participating in the Hyundai commission. Her work will be on display from Oct. 2, 2019-April 5, 2020.

Organized by Tate curators Clara Kim and Priyesh Mistry, the installation will be documented by a new book from Tate Publishing.

AT THE MET, Mutu is the first artist commissioned for what will be an annual series of outdoor installations. The practice of the Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based artist is grounded in images and materials. She works in a variety of mediums, making sculpture, paintings, collage, and videos that explore race, gender, and relationships between the body and nature. Mutu’s works will be on view at The Met Sept. 9, 2019-Jan. 12, 2020.

The museum also announced a painting installation with Kent Monkman slated for the Great Hall and an immersive video installation by Ragnar Kjartansson to be presented in the Robert Lehman Wing atrium.

“These projects are a manifestation of The Met’s desire and ability to collaborate with artists and current artistic production in an unusual way,” Max Hollein, director of The Met, said in a statement. “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.” CT


IMAGES: Top, Wangechi Mutu talks about Egon Schiele Drawings in the Drawings and Prints Study Room of The Metropolitan Museum of Art for Artist Project 2015 episode. | © 2015 MMA, photographed by Jackie Neale; Above right, Kara Walker. | © Ari Macropoulos, Courtesy Tate Modern


“Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” documents Wangechi Mutu’s first major solo museum exhibition, a traveling survey organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Published in 2017, “Kara Walker – MCMXCIX” is a sketchbook that features works by Kara Walker, dating back to 1999 when the artist was 29. “The Ecstasy of St. Kara: Kara Walker” accompanied an exhibition of new works—influenced in part by Walker’s residency at the American Academy in Rome—on view recently at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Kara Walker: Figa” is forthcoming in May.


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