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Find Respite from the City at The Met's New Rooftop Garden Exhibit
One of the pleasures of the warm weather months in New York is a visit to The Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to enjoy the panoramic and sunset views, sip a drink, and take in the current seasonal exhibit.
The garden opened this week with its familiar views of Central Park and rising skyscrapers, but there’s a new twist this year. This season’s exhibit, a steel and glass pavilion entitled Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout, reflects and interprets the skyline and surroundings in magical and unexpected ways. The installation, by American Conceptualist Dan Graham in collaboration with Swiss landscape architect Günther Vogt, will charm and entice visitors, whatever their age.
“My work is always child friendly,” explained Graham, a New Yorker who is known for his glass pavilions and architectural environments. This particular piece offers a one-of-a-kind interaction with the surrounding environment, at once transparent with the see-through quality of the mirrored glass and hedgerows but also reflective of the images of skyline, sky and surroundings.
“It’s psychedelic and distorting,” noted Graham of the effect of the concave and convex angles of the mirrored glass weaving through the pavilion.
At first glance, the Walkabout seems quite straightforward: An S-curved two-way mirrored glass set on a platform of gray limestone between two tall hedgerows of climbing ivy. A lush carpet of forever lawn (artificial grass) surrounds the piece, covering the expansive roof and lending a garden party look and feel. A smattering of sleek black and metal lawn chairs, specially designed for the exhibit, has replaced the benches of past seasons. (Graham designed the faux lawn to be reminiscent of the suburban lawns of his childhood in New Jersey.)
The intent of the walkabout is to create a respite from the city, a space for reflection, leisure and pondering of the urban landscape. Step into the open-air pavilion and, at once, you are a part of the piece. As you move through it, you see your own reflection and that of the surrounding skyscrapers, sky and hedgerows. The images change with the light and the different angles along the curve and the distortions make you feel as if you’ve entered an amusement park attraction.
“It’s designed as a funhouse situation for children and a photo opportunity for parents,” said Graham as he stood beside the hedgerow.
A dramatic spot is at the southernmost first panel, on the concave side, where you see yourself and mirrored skyscrapers elongated. Look carefully and you’ll experience a 3-D effect with the trees rising above Central Park at your back.
“The concave side allows women who are overweight to be thin and boys (raising their arms) to be supermen,” said Graham of the visual impact of the mirrors. Young girls like to dance in front of his pieces, he noted, highlighting the playful aspect of his work.
Visiting the piece at different times will create different effects.
“The piece changes as the sky changes, the clouds change,” said Graham.
The Walkabout, described as “part garden maze, part modernist skyscraper façade,” will be on view during museum hours until the garden closes on November 2 (weather permitting). The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The self-service Roof Garden Cafe offers salads, sandwiches, snacks and beverages daily from 10 a.m. to closing and a martini bar on Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Explore more of Graham’s work at a related exhibit on the second floor of the museum in the modern and contemporary art galleries with videos and photos of his work and another of his smaller pavilions.
Admission to The Met and other popular NYC attractions is included with your New York CityPASS.