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Artist Interview—Wangechi Mutu: The NewOnes, will free Us | Met Exhibitions

Artist Interview—Wangechi Mutu: The NewOnes, will free Us | Met Exhibitions


My name is Wangechi Mutu. I’m a visual artist, born in Kenya, Nairobi. I feel like this particular commission of
asking a contemporary artist to place something in these niches in the facade of The Metropolitan,
for me, is one of the most proactive moves that a museum could make at this particular
moment. The space has been empty since the Museum
was built. When The Met approached me about this idea,
I was actually looking at caryatids. Caryatids, throughout history, have carried
these buildings to express the might and the wealth of a particular place. In Greek architecture, you see these women
in their beautiful robes, and then in African sculpture across the continent you see these
women either kneeling or sitting, sometimes holding a child, as well as holding up the
seat of the king. It felt like this was a very ubiquitous position
for women across many, many histories. How do I use this figure to change this conversation
and this issue? I wanted to keep the D.N.A. of the woman in
an active pose, but I didn’t want her to carry the weight of something or someone else. The process of taking it from drawing into
3D has been quite epic. Once these molds had been produced in a much
larger scale, I really worked hard to individualize everything that really expresses humanity
to us. After they had been cast in bronze, I went
in to work on the patinas. And that’s when I was going to have to go
in and paint them in fire and really make them alive. Because they’re going to be in front of all
of these people, I wanted these things to be about how form and material actually impacts
us. How they look is very much about what they
mean. I created these coils that I’ve put all the
way around their bodies that felt tactile and living and fleshy, but at the same time really protected
the women and gave them kind of a privacy and a regal nature. They became almost like soldiers, like they
were in armor. And the circular form actually comes from
traditional African adornment: Ethiopian, Sudanese tribes that have these incredible
lip plates. They’re mostly worn by women of status. So I’ve turned them into mirrors. They’re able to take light and twist it around;
they’re able to flash at you from a distance. Women’s bodies are always at the front of
so much of the expression, the hostility, the magnificence of how humankind sees itself. I think of these women as characters that
have the capacity, the freedom, and the opportunity to be where they need to be, to say what they
have to say. They’re here, and they’re present, and they’ve
arrived.

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3 thoughts on “Artist Interview—Wangechi Mutu: The NewOnes, will free Us | Met Exhibitions

  1. If someone wants to understand an unknown culture, one can do so by looking at it's art. All the information and knowledge we have or had about our past is through those artworks created during that particular time period or by a very specific type of people of those bygone era or the ones who belong to those group. To be able to witness this type of art and culture is somewhat a privilege on its own. So I would like to thank everyone who works at MET and comes up with these crazy idea of showcasing this fantastic but somewhat underestimated works of art. I have said it in the past and I am going to say it again, in the age of technology and internet, art is dying, so thank you MET for being such a good sport and showcasing these despite of all controversies and criticism. Have a great day and great job as usual.

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