The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke has been selected to create new works for The Met Fifth Avenue’s facade niches, the third in a new series of site-specific commissions for the exterior of the Museum. The Facade Commission: Hew Locke, Gilt will be on view September 16, 2022 through May 22, 2023.
Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, said, “Hew Locke creates emotionally powerful and visually striking work that will stop you in your tracks. This site-responsive commission for the Museum’s facade will be informed by Locke’s deep knowledge of The Met’s collection and will reference the institution in ways both direct and indirect, recovering and connecting histories across continents, oceans, and time periods. We look forward to unveiling what is sure to be a stunning and thought-provoking commission this September.”
“Hew Locke uses a delirious aesthetic of abundance and excess to reflect themes of deep urgency in the past and present, including wealth, imperial power, and prestige, astutely critiquing their visual iconography through reclamation. Locke’s work deftly interweaves the fine lines between theatricality, visual beauty, and critical insight,” added Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chair of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met.
For the Facade Commission, Locke created four sculptures fashioned into the shape of whole and fragmented trophies that reference the history of works in The Met collection.
Rooted in his study of both art history and political history, Locke’s practice is premised on appropriation, juxtaposition, and recombination. Assemblage, in which disparate materials from disparate places and times collide, is key to his work. As with Gilt, Locke’s primary materials are readymade: he relies heavily on an inventory of found images and symbols, from trophies and coats of arms to works of art, warships, public sculptures and so on. Almost all are associated in one way or another with power, migration, conflict, conquest, or transnational cultural exchange.
About the Artist ~ Hew Locke was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1959 and raised in Guyana, a Caribbean nation in South America, between 1966 and 1980. His 15 years in Guyana—a diverse, multicultural, multiracial society formed in the crucible of indigeneity, European colonialism, the African slave trade, and Indian indentureship—began the same time that British rule over the country came to an end. Locke returned to the United Kingdom in 1980, at a time when a successive wave of immigrants relocated, mostly to London, from Britain’s current and former colonies in the Caribbean. He completed a BA in Fine Art at Falmouth University in 1988 and an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art in 1994. He has resided full time in London since then.
In 2019, Locke’s comprehensive solo exhibition, Here’s the Thing, opened at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, and subsequently toured to Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, and Colby College Museum of Art, Maine. Locke’s works have been included in The Folkestone Triennial (2011); the Diaspora Pavillion, part of the 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Prospect New Orleans Contemporary Art Biennial (2014); and Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art (2016). In 2010, his piece Sikandar was short-listed for the Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square. In 2015, Locke was commissioned by Surrey County Council and National Trust to create The Jurors, a public artwork at Runnymede commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, and in 2016 the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association nominated him for its Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture. His work was also recently included in the major exhibition Artist and Empire at Tate Britain (2015–16) and Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art, 1950s–Now. Locke’s 2022 Tate Britain Commission, The Procession, recently opened to critical acclaim.
Locke’s work is represented in the collections of many arts institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Tate Gallery; the Arts Council of England; the Victoria & Albert Museum Drawing Collection; Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany; the British Museum; the Brooklyn Museum; and Perez Art Museum Miami, among many others.
The Facade Commission: Hew Locke, Gilt is conceived by the artist in consultation with Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chair of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Kelly Baum, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art, both of The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. Baum is also serving as the commission’s curator.
The Facade Commission is part of a new series of contemporary commissions at The Met in which the Museum invites artists to create new works of art, establishing a dialogue between the artist’s practice, The Met collection, the physical Museum, and The Met’s audiences.
The exhibition is made possible by the Jane and Robert Carroll Fund, Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne, and Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky.