Michael Lin’s site-specific installation Pentachrome brings contemporary art to the Museum’s Great Hall Escalator for the first time. Inspired by The Met collection and the building’s architecture, Pentachrome invites visitors to reconsider the Museum’s Great Hall, its Balcony, and the surrounding art from a fresh perspective.
For more than a hundred years, Asian art, especially Chinese ceramics, has adorned the Museum’s Great Hall, finding a special prominence around the second-floor Balcony. Within the Hall—which was designed to evoke and even compete with the grand institutions of Europe—Chinese art has served as a kind of ornament to the authoritative, Classical architectural frame. Over time, while the Museum’s collection has grown and its presentation of art from Asia has evolved, this fundamental relationship between European architecture and Chinese adornment has persisted in the Great Hall Balcony. Pentachrome spotlights, explores, and inverts this relationship.
As visitors travel up the escalator, they are surrounded by images of birds and flowers drawn from two Qing-dynasty porcelain vases that have been enlarged to heroic, overwhelming scale. Inspired by street poster (“wild posting”) campaigns seen in the urban landscape, Lin applies the images in a cumulative, irregular way, breaking down the formal Museum environment and inviting the casual engagement of the street. By surrounding and immersing visitors in these images, Lin invites us to look and think more deeply about the paradoxically central and sidelined role of Asian art within the history of the Museum’s Great Hall.
The installation is made possible by Barbara A. Wolfe and the Director’s Fund.