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Park Avenue Armory Launches Annual Commissioning Program

NEW YORK, NY.- Park Avenue Armory has announced the next step in its evolution as a dynamic arts institution with the launch of an annual program in which an artist will be commissioned to create a work catalyzed by the Armory’s vast Wade Thompson Drill Hall. The artist for the inaugural “Drill Hall Commissions” program is Ernesto Neto who is known for creating immersive, multi-sensory installations that invite viewers to engage with and often literally enter the work. The Neto work, called anthropodino, will open on May 14, 2009 and run until June 14, 2009, and will be his largest installation to date.

“We are a new organization whose mission is to provide the opportunity for artists to work at a scale and in a way that is not possible elsewhere in the city,” said Park Avenue Armory President & CEO Rebecca Robertson. “This commissioning program is a first step towards establishing the Armory as a place where the public can experience both the visual and performing arts in a way that is not restricted by walls or encumbered by traditional institutional procedures and operational or structural limitations. Ernesto is the ideal artist to launch our annual program and is creating for the Armory a singular experience in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall that will envelop and enmesh our visitors.”

Each year, the Armory will work with an artist to develop an installation that is inspired by the dramatic 55,000 square-foot, 80-foot-high Wade Thompson Drill Hall. For the 2009 commission, the Armory engaged Tom Eccles, a well known curator of large scale public art projects to oversee the installation.

The inaugural Drill Hall Commission is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund. Additional assistance is provided by Booth Ferris Foundation, The Lauder Foundation/Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Fund, G-Star Raw, Kenneth Kuchin, Petrobas, and Consulate General of Brazil in New York.

The Armory fills a critical niche in the cultural ecology of the city by enabling artists to create—and the public to experience—work that could not otherwise be realized in New York. The Armory joins an international wave of institutions that commission contemporary works of epic scale in converted industrial and other monumental structures, including Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the Arsenale in Venice, the Roundhouse in London, and the Cartoucherie in Paris.

As part of the inaugural commission, Park Avenue Armory will offer educational programs for families and schoolchildren for the first time. Arts education at the Armory will provide an opportunity for students not only to experience unique, immersive arts installations such as Ernesto Neto’s anthropodino, but also to make connections between major works of art and their own creations in visual arts, music, dance, storytelling, and theater—all within the historical surrounds of the Armory. In addition to partnering with NYC schools and community groups, the Armory will also provide ongoing professional development for artists and educators to integrate arts in teaching and learning.

Curator Tom Eccles said, “Ernesto often draws inspiration from his surroundings, and I cannot think of a better place than the Armory for New Yorkers to be able to immerse themselves in one of his largest works to date. His work is awe-inspiring, visceral, and remarkably accessible to all generations. He encourages the participation of his audience and this new installation will create an unforgettable public space in the middle of Manhattan.”

The Park Avenue Armory installation, called anthropodino, will be Neto’s largest work to date and will virtually fill the Armory’s expansive Wade Thompson Drill Hall. Using hundreds of yards of diaphanous material, Neto will suspend a gigantic canopy from which large, colorful, and aromatic “stalactites” will descend to within arms reach. On the ground, a series of monumental arches covered in translucent fabric will fit together like a puzzle to create a vast labyrinth of walkways and rooms that invite visitors to step inside the sculpture in which various activities, including presentations and participatory experiences, will take place. Neto’s installation will incorporate the architecture of the Armory itself, and the public will be able to explore the piece from the different perspectives of the drill hall and its interior balcony, interacting with the work from both the ground and from a “bird’s eye view.”

The work as it has been originally conceived will consist of a fine, net-like fabric (or “skin”) to be suspended from the drill hall’s majestic steel latticework ceiling, spanning an area of approximately 192 feet by 100 feet with pieces suspended from its trusses up to 69 feet long. Hundreds of pounds of spices, including turmeric, clove, ginger, black pepper and cumin, will infuse the environment with scent and provide ballast for the vertical elements.

Since the mid-1990s, Ernesto Neto, who lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, has developed among the most widely exhibited and influential bodies of work in contemporary sculpture and installation. Neto draws influence not only from the biomorphism and Modernist abstraction of Calder and Brancusi, but equally, from the conceptual, social, and performative installations of his Brazilian predecessors, Lygia Clarke and Helio Oiticia. Incorporating a combination of commonplace and organic materials—stockings, spices, sand, and shells among them—Neto’s works engage all five senses, inviting the visitors to interact with the artwork itself and with each other.

In 1999 Neto participated in the Carnegie International, and in 2001 he represented Brazil in the Venice Biennale. Recent notable shows include: Ernesto Neto, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome, Italy, 2008 (solo); Ernesto Neto, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 2008 (solo); Psycho Buildings: Artists and Architecture, Hayward Gallery, London, 2008 (group); Currents: Recent Acquisitions, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 2008 (group); Tropicália uma revolução na cultura brasileira, MAM, Rio de Janeiro, 2007 (group); Merce Cunningham: Dancing on the Cutting Edge Part 1, Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, 2007 (group); Leviathan Thot, Panthéon, Paris, 35th Festival d'Automne, Paris, 2006 (solo); Forum 57: Luisa Lambri and Ernesto Neto, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, 2006 (solo); Ernesto Neto-The Malmö Experience, Malmö Konsthall, Malmo, Sweden, 2006 (solo); Tropicalia, Barbican Gallery, London, traveling to Centro Cultural de Belem, Lisbon, and Bronx Museum, New York, 2006 (group); and Ernesto Neto, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2005 (solo); among others.

Neto’s work is extremely well represented in international museum collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Tate Gallery, London; CAC Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Malága, Málaga, Spain; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Centre Pompidou - Musée National d´Art Moderne, Paris; Contemporary Art Center of Inhome, Brazil; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, SA; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; and The Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

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