One of the best views in New York is about to get a little better. Artist Dan Graham has been selected to design this year's rooftop installation for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, overlooking Central Park and providing one of the most spectacular vistas in the city. The steel-and-glass structure will be on view from April 29 to November 2 and is a collaboration with Swiss landscape designer Günther Vogt.
Graham has a diverse range of influences from crooner Dean Martin to architects Robert Venturi, and Mies van der Rohe. He has collaborated with minimalist master Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd, the band Sonic Youth, and land artist Robert Smithson. His work maneuvers deftly among these social strata, incorporating pavilions, sculpture, video, performance and photography.
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Graham's work has always maintained an architectural quality. He helped pioneer minimalism through his curatorial role at John Daniels Gallery, where he put on LeWitt's first solo exhibition. Shortly after, Graham developed "Homes for America," a 1965 series of photographs of suburban New Jersey homes connecting the minimalist language with the landscapes of sprawl.
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One of his early pieces, Alteration to a Suburban House (1978), is a model of a suburban home clad partly in glass and fitted with a mirror on the interior wall, rethinking the walls and boundaries of the typical home. Graham's first solo show, "Exhibition of Environmental Aesthetic," was arranged by Kyong Park at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in 1986. It was a study in the concepts of of actor and audience, public and private space, and the effects of vision on the perception of these ideas.
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Since then, Graham has designed a number of pavilions for parks and museums throughout the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The pavilions incorporate transparency, mirrors, labyrinths, landscaping, and other visual effects to draw the audience into the works. However, he has had relatively few big commissions in the United States. One such large project was the Rooftop Urban Park Project in NYC—a small two-way glass mirror pavilion that was accessible to the public for 13 years.
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What to expect from Graham's Met installation? He describes his work as part architecture, part television, indicative of his high-low sensibility and his desire to create spaces that are not only profound but also enjoyable. Graham has confirmed that the rooftop sculpture will incorporate hedges and curved two-way mirror glass. Perhaps it will incorporate video art in some way?
Thomas Saraceno's "Cloud City" installation for the Met roof in 2011. Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art
Graham seems like a natural fit for the rooftop program, given his knowledge of working at the architectural scale, his extensive museum pavilion experience, and the Rooftop Urban Park Project. And the collaboration will test the limits of Graham's abilities to instigate frictions between public and private, since the Met is a private space on an Upper Eastside rooftop that is cheap for the public to enter via a pay-as-you-wish entry fee. Graham's work has always taken an even-handed approach to these contradictory concepts, seeing them not operating in opposition, but intersecting in interesting and provocative ways.