American artist Carol Bove (born 1971) has created four sculptures for The Met Fifth Avenue’s facade niches. The Facade Commission: Carol Bove, The séances aren’t helping is the second commission to be featured on the Museum’s facade and will be on view through fall 2021. Made of sandblasted, contorted stainless-steel tubes and five-foot-wide reflective aluminum disks, the sculptures appear astoundingly lithe and supple, almost mercurial, despite their weight and heft—an effect Bove achieves by pushing her materials to their physical limits using incredible force. Projecting outward from the niches, the works confound perception.

The exhibition is made possible by the Director’s Fund, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, Helene and Johannes Huth, and Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky.

Additional support is provided by the John & Amy Griffin Foundation, Inc. and the Speyer Family Foundation.

Max Hollein, the Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, said, “Carol Bove has transformed The Met’s historic exterior with four commanding yet playful sculptures. These colossal figures and abstract entities engage powerfully with their surroundings, beckoning to visitors and reflecting the changing light throughout the day. We look forward to sharing these works with New York.”

Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, added, “The Met’s Beaux-Art architecture is 119 years old but—like the niches that were left empty—the Museum itself is an ongoing, unfinished project, always changing. Old certainties wither in this new era: Bove’s sculptures speak directly to this, upending tradition but upholding the power of culture to question. They are dynamic provocateurs.”

Installation view of The séances aren’t helping (detail) for The Facade Commission: Carol Bove, The séances aren’t helping, 2021. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo by Bruce Schwarz

Bove works improvisationally and sculpts at scale and in the round, without preparatory drawings. For this commission, she used a one-to-one mock-up of the Museum’s empty niches that was created in her studio. Bove chose a series of nonrepresentational forms that resonate with modernist styles such as Art Deco and abstraction—a stark contrast to the traditional figurative sculptures that the architect Richard Morris Hunt envisioned for The Met’s facade, which was completed in 1902, but was never fully realized. Bove based the size of the aluminum disks on the diameter of the columns that flank the Museum’s niches and the medallion portraits that adorn the spandrels of the arches. The differing orientations result in a playful, rhythmic pattern, yielding a frisson of delight that might throw viewers slightly off-balance. By astutely engaging the Museum’s facade, reimagining its history, and retooling some of its architectural and design elements, the artist subtly calls for us to reevaluate and reckon with the legacies of tradition.

Originally scheduled to go on view in September 2020, the commission was delayed due to the pandemic. 

The Facade Commission is part of a new series of contemporary commissions at The Met in which the Museum invites artists to create new works of art, establishing a dialogue between the artist’s practice, The Met collection, the physical Museum, and The Met’s audiences. The Facade Commission was inaugurated in September 2019 with Wangechi Mutu’s The NewOnes, will free Us (September 9, 2019–November 1, 2020).

The Facade Commission: Carol Bove, The séances aren’t helping was conceived by the artist in consultation with Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, and the project curator, Shanay Jhaveri, Assistant Curator of International Modern and Contemporary Art, both of The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Artist’s Statement

About the Artist
Born in 1971 in Geneva, Carol Bove was raised in Berkeley, California, and studied at New York University. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn. Known for works that incorporate found and constructed elements through a unique formal, technical, and conceptual inventiveness, Bove, through her practice, consistently challenges and expands the possibilities of formal abstraction. 

Bove’s large-scale sculptures have recently been displayed at: the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Unlimited at Art Basel (2018); the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, The Contemporary Austin (2017); Women of Venice at the Swiss Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017), where she was invited to respond to the legacy of Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti; and City Hall Park in New York (2016) as part of the group exhibition The Language of Things, organized by Public Art Fund. In 2013, she created a series of sculptures for the High Line at the Rail Yards in New York.

The artist’s first major museum presentation was held at Kunstverein, Hamburg (2003). Solo exhibitions have been presented at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); The Common Guild, Glasgow (2013); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2010); Tate St Ives, England (2009); Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin (2006); Kunsthalle Zürich (2004); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2004). 

Group exhibitions include the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); the 57th Venice Biennale (2017); documenta 13, Kassel, Germany (2012); the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); and the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2008). Bove’s work was most recently on view alongside John Chamberlain’s in a two-person presentation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2019-20). 

The Facade Commission: Carol Bove, The séances aren’t helping is featured on The Met website, as well as on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #MetCarolBove and #MetFacade.

Education programs related to the Facade Commission will be announced in the coming weeks; details will be available on the Museum’s website.

Education programs are sponsored by David Zwirner.

Installation view of The séances aren’t helping for The Facade Commission: Carol Bove, The séances aren’t helping, 2021. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo by Bruce Schwarz