petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop

Petrit Halilaj installs Abetare sculpture series at the MET

 

For the MET’s highly anticipated 2024 Roof Garden Commission, Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj presents a collection of metal sculptures inspired by the whimsical drawings of his childhood. The installation, titled Abetare, is the eleventh in the series of site-specific outdoor commissions and marks Halilaj’s first foray into the world of outdoor works. The project draws from the playful doodles and scribbles on the desks of the school the artist attended in Runik, Kosovo, as well as schools in Albania and countries in the former Yugoslavia currently undergoing significant cultural and socio-political change. The resulting expansive work explores the intersection of reality and fantasy, forming an immersive installation that overlooks the urban fabric of New York.

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop
Abetare by Petrit Halilaj | all images courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

childhood drawings come to life as enlarged metal sculptures

 

On view until October 27, 2024, Abetare by Petrit Halilaj (find more here) transforms the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden of the the MET Museum (find more here) with a series of metal installations depicting flowers, spiders, stick figures, and superheroes. Enlarged from furtive drawings found on children’s desks, the three-dimensional metal sculptures retain the essence of the original sketches, offering a glimpse into the collective memory and imagination of generations affected by traumatic conflicts and territorial divisions, particularly in Kosovo during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The title Abetare derives from the book used by the artist and his peers to learn the alphabet, linking each letter to lessons in pictures and text.

 

This commission expands upon Halilaj’s 2015 project, broadening its scope beyond Kosovo to encompass experiences across the Balkan region, challenging binary ideologies, and fostering connections between nations and individual experiences. Cultural references to political ideologies, religions, and local heroes intertwine with universal symbols and playful nods to pop culture, art history, and sports across the garden, merging with the architecture and landscape to create a multilayered narrative. Abetare celebrates the innate impulse for personal expression and invites viewers to envision transformative futures, fostering a spirit of discovery and imagination.

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop
the three-dimensional metal sculptures retain the essence of the original sketches

 

 

‘The casual scribbles of schoolchildren done on their desks in moments of boredom or distraction reveal the fantasies and dreams of their minds,’ says Halilaj. ‘I started to explore this in my practice in 2015, and it was important for me then to extend the dreams of my school in Kosovo to Europe, a part of the world from which my country was still isolated. Now, in 2024, numerous desks and scribbles from schools across the Balkans are showcased in a new context and on a new continent. My work here at The Met is dedicated to all the children whose lives have been interrupted and deeply scarred by wars around the globe. I hope their dreams will fly us to a better future.’

 

‘The Met is thrilled to unveil Petrit Halilaj’s intervention for the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden and share the deeply meaningful conversation it invites between the artist’s work, the Museum, the Manhattan skyline, and beyond,’ said Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and Chief Executive Officer. ‘Petrit Halilaj’s inspiring and multilayered work—which is both deeply rooted in the artist’s history and homeland and forward thinking and international in scope—powerfully reframes the complex role of the childhood imagination in history’s retelling of events.’

 

 

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop
the project draws from the playful scribbles on the desks of the school that the artist attended

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop
the sculptures also draw from drawings found in schools in Albania and countries in the former Yugoslavia

petrit-halilaj-doodle-sculptures-childhood-memories-met-museum-designboom-full-0

‘my work at The Met is dedicated to all the children whose lives have been interrupted (…) by wars,’ says the artist

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop
the works offer a glimpse into the collective memory and imagination of generations affected by traumatic conflicts

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop
the installation is the eleventh in a series of site-specific outdoor commissions for the MET

petrit-halilaj-doodle-sculptures-childhood-memories-met-museum-designboom-full--0

the sculptures transform the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden of the the MET Museum

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop
the pieces depict flowers, spiders, stick figures, superheroes, and more

petrit halilaj's doodle sculptures evoke childhood memories at the MET museum rooftop
the installation explores the intersection of reality and fantasy

 

 

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project info: 

 

name: Abetare 
artist: Petrit Halilaj
location: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
dates: April 30–October 27, 2024

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