Every spring, New Yorkers are treated to a new fascinating work of art atop the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This year, the commission for Met roof garden installation went to American artist Lauren Halsey. In her rooftop installation, Halsey, a native of Los Angeles, fused the architecture and symbolism of ancient Egypt with the culture, spirit, and street art of her hometown in South Central Los Angeles.
For this Met roof garden installation, Halsely pulled inspiration from a variety of sources, including her own life and objects in the museum’s collections. Her work incorporates Egyptian symbolism, 1960s utopian architecture, and contemporary visual expressions like tagging to explore how people aspire to make public places their own.
The installation is made up of a 22-foot-high cube constructed of 750 glass fiber-reinforced concrete tiles. The temple-like cube is guarded by two sphinxes and surrounded by four towering columns. The faces on the two sphinxes are those of the artist’s mother and brother. The walls of the cube and the columns are covered in words and images from the proverbial “Book of Everyday Life,” inspired by the Egyptian “Book of the Dead.”
The carvings on the walls and columns represent bits of life observed in the historically Black neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. These phrases and pictures that Halsey collected serve as a sort of archive of her community, presented here in the manner of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. On the piece, you’ll see text that looks like graffiti, depictions of local buildings, and symbols of life in Los Angeles.
The bright, white structures provide a contrast to the New York skyline, with openings in the structure framing stunning rooftop views of the city’s skyscrapers. Halsey’s work will be on view through October 22nd, 2023. Check out more images of the work in the gallery below:
Next, check out 10 Public Art Installations in NYC