For months now, red and white “We’re Closed” signs have stood outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a constant reminder that business these days is anything but usual. But, when visitors make their triumphant return to the Met as it reopens on August 29, they’ll be greeted by sine very different signs adorning the museum’s Beaux-Arts facade.
For the first time, the space that usually advertises current exhibitions will be turned over to the Japanese-born conceptual artist Yoko Ono. The artist created two 24-by-26-foot banners, one that reads “DREAM” and one that reads “TOGETHER,” during lockdown as a way to address the longing for connectivity felt by so many.
Ono’s banners, titled (2020), will join artist Wangechi Mutu’s four female sculptures, collectively titled (2019), which already stand sentinel in the niches between the Fifth Avenue building’s Grecian-style pillars. Two of Mutu’s caryatids were acquired by the Met earlier this year after they debuted as part of the Met’s commission series which brings contemporary artworks beyond the galleries and into viewer’s public space. The next iteration of the facade commission features work by Carol Bove and will go up in November 2020.
Ono is the ideal artist for the banner project, Met director Max Hollein says, because she is “on the one hand, very connected to New York, but also someone who is an immigrant, who has traveled the world and has a global perspective, and brings that to her work.” As an emissary of the world, Ono’s text-based works will serve as a beacon to bring visitors back to the museum.
The banners, Hollein said, “send a message to everyone who sees them of aspiration, resilience, and hope.”
Even for those who don’t come inside the museum, Hollein says he hopes that the message of optimism and inspiration will resonate with passersby.
“This display is a signal of the life returning to New York City and the Met, both of which thrive on community and a sense of shared optimism for the strength of the human spirit and the power of art to bring comfort, inspire resilience, and help us understand our turbulent times,” said Met president Daniel Weiss in a statement.