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Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas has created a plaster-cast dinner party on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, featuring characters and objects brought together from across the museum’s vast collection. The Theater of Disappearance was created for The Met’s annual Roof Garden Commission.

It includes replicas of over 100 historic and contemporary items, which have been 3D scanned and digitally composed together. The pieces were arranged in, around and on top of each other to form hybrid interpretations of the artefacts, then either CNC milled or 3D printed. The entire installation is coated in automotive paint to ensure it isn’t damaged by inclement weather.

Most of the installation revolves around a series of all-white dining tables, arranged in diagonal lines across the museum’s Iris and B Gerald Cantor Roof Garden – which boasts panoramic views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.

The thick tabletops rest on rows of chairs along either side, although some of the seats are occupied by the sculptures. Some of the party guests are partially sunk into the table surfaces, while others appear to be interacting with each other. Smaller objects like tableware from across the Met’s various collections – from Ancient Roman and Greek, to African art – are also scattered across the scene.

Other pieces that stand away from the banquet are picked out in black, but were created in the same way. Of these, characters from The Kiss sport bunny ears, while the head of an Egyptian dignitary is held up in the air by a young girl. At the end of the garden, a towering totem thrusts into the sky like the many skyscrapers behind.

The idea for the site-specific installation came from The Met’s early history, when plaster casts of masterpieces were shown before the real artefacts were acquired. Villar Rojas’ intention was to question the ideological stance of the museum and how it chooses to present its vast collection.

He went of a scavenger hunt around the museum to pick out the pieces to include, then purposefully jumbled them up to remove any hierarchy and erase classification. “The Theater of Disappearance seeks to dialogue with the vision and division of The Met’s patrimony,” said the artist. “An entire cartography of human culture seems to emerge from the museum’s wings and rooms.”

“Rather than a mirror of facts, the museum becomes a version of them.” The installation is on show at The Met’s main Fifth Avenue location from 14 April to 29 October 2017, weather permitting. Previous commissions for the roof garden have included last year’s Psychobarn installation by Cornelia Parker, and Pierre Huyghe’s 2015 piece that featured an aquarium of ancient species.

Design: Adrián Villar Rojas
Photography: Mario Caporali

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