Meet Me At the Met: The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden

The opening of a site-specific exhibit by the French artist, Pierre Huyghe, on the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a harbinger of spring. I couldn't wait to see it. This is the third installation in a series of works commissioned by the museum, all  of which are meant to explore the relationship of the rooftop to its environs—that is, to Central Park and to the city.

The first installation, Big Bambu, by the artists Doug and Mike Stan in 2010, combined the architecture and sculpture of bamboo. For that exhibit, visitors hoping to climb the bamboo ranging high overhead needed timed tickets and rubber-soled shoes. For the less adventurous, there was the experience of walking through a grove of bamboo. The Big Bambu was a popular and amusing diversion for us city folk. The Met struck gold.

Then came last year’s installation, Hedge and Two-Way Mirror Walkabout, by Dan Graham and Gunther Vog— a miracle of grass and glass. An aesthetically pleasing vision of a rooftop covered with  lush green grass, grass you could actually walk on! Grass in the city has a charm all its own, but added to that were see-through glass sculptures and tall green hedges. As inviting as a glass of ice cold water on a hot summer’s day, the istallation was a success. Can you find your intrepid photographer?

All of which left me unprepared for this year's. Arriving early on the rooftop, when only the security guards and two men setting up the refreshment counter were about, I thought I had timed my visit wrong, thought the installation not ready for public viewing. Ahead of me were rooftop pavers that had been torn up, as if a plumber had been trying to locate the source of a leak.

Watch Your Step!

Roof Garden and Van Gogh 167.JPG

It took a minute to realize that what I thought a plumbing problem was the artist's vision of a rooftop turned into an archeological dig. Okay, so after they tore up the pavers, did they find any vestiges of an earlier era? A sketch mounted near the entrance offered tantalizing clues: 'the installation contains traces of oxidized copper, water, fossils, and canine and human remains.' As someone who has visited archeological digs in Egypt and the Greek Isles, I’ve never seen one less interesting.

What’s the Story?

Roof Garden and Van Gogh 169.JPG

Yes, there were four weeds—not growing randomly as weeds are wont to do but in a row. And there was a diagram with various notations—Oxidize, Aqua, Tool Stones, Human, Fossils, Auto Generating, Rite Passage—that provided a conceptual map of the artist’s thought processes. See for yourself.  The walkabout, on paper and in the garden, starts at the lower left corner.

 Need a Translation?

A plaque reads: Occupying this altered landscape are diverse and dynamic elements that shift or manifest themselves according to their own varied rhythms. Really? Are we saying that seeds sow themselves in tidy rows? That certainly has not been my experience in the garden.

I came away feeling the installation better suited to MoMA than to the rooftop of the Met, but this being the Met, it's possible to find random touches of beauty everywhere, including a lone flower on a vine and all of Central Park at your feet.

Here's the clincher: the Met's collection is so vast, so varied and deep that if one installation doesn't take your fancy, there are hundreds to choose from. Me? I'm off to see Van Gogh: Irises and Roses, but first I'm going to grab a cup of coffee, relax, and enjoy the view. Isn't that what rooftops are all about?

Last week, two readers complained that they were not receiving regular posts from Desperately Seeking Paris. There is much about the technology of blogging that's beyond my understanding, but if you have not been receiving regular updates, would you please sign up again and leave your email? Perhaps when we switched mailing companies, they lost a few names. Sorry about that. Thanks for stopping by and be careful when you leave not to trip over a paver. Hope to see you back next week, when I'll have the coffee ready. Until then, may life be good to you...à bientôt mes amis.