The American artist Lauren Halsey has been commissioned to create the next rooftop installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, titled Central Los Angeles Hieroglyphic Prototype Architecture (I) (2022). The site-specific work will consist of a large-scale structure that visitors can enter, featuring symbolism evoking utopian architecture, ancient Egyptian art, street art and other motifs referencing the culture of South Central Los Angeles, where Halsey was born and continues to work.
The installation will “channel the museum’s unparalleled Egyptian art collections through the lens of Afrofuturism, while also creating a powerful form of documentation of her neighbourhood in South Central Los Angeles”, Max Hollein, the Met's director, said in a statement.
He adds, “Engaging with the past, while also exploring a space of speculative imagination, Halsey offers us a powerful statement about civic space, social activism and a reconsideration of the possibilities for architecture and community engagement.”
Halsey earned her MFA from Yale University in 2014, receiving the $100,000 Mohn Award from the Hammer Museum in 2018 and the $25,000 Frieze Artist Prize in 2019. In a previous interview with The Art Newspaper marking the Frieze award, the artist said she “inherited myths around ancient Egypt” through her father, an Egyptophile; the psychedelic band Parliament-Funkadelic, who “appropriated ancient Egypt as a site for Black genius, Black science and Black fantasy” in their albums; and other figures like Sun Ra.
She added, “I started thinking about the function of the hieroglyphs as this permanent record of the pharaoh's world, as told by the scribes, and I thought it would be interesting to appropriate or remix the function of the hieroglyphs to describe entire communities and people.”
In a statement regarding the rooftop commission, Halsey says the work will aim to “reflect my interest in conflating narratives from contemporary South Central Los Angeles with those evoked in ancient pharaonic architecture”, and that she hopes visitors in New York will “feel the connections intuitively”.
Known as the Met Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden Commission, the initiative was established in 2013 and has previously featured works by Alex Da Corte, Alicja Kwade and the late artist Dan Graham.
Last year, in its indoor galleries, the museum opened a long-term display it dubbed an “Afrofuturist period room”, incorporating historic and contemporary objects from its collection.
- Lauren Halsey: The Rooftop Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17 May-23 October