Michael Lin’s Pentachrome debuts at the Met’s Great Hall Escalator

Going Up

Michael Lin’s Pentachrome debuts at the Met’s Great Hall Escalator

Installation view of Pentachrome by Michael Lin at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2022. (Photo by Paul Lachenauer/Courtesy The Met)

While visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will have to wait just a bit longer (i.e. an entire year) for the museum’s annual summertime roof garden installation to debut, another contemporary installation was recently unveiled in a very high-traffic public space at the storied Upper East Side institution.

On view since August 15, Tokyo-born Taiwanese artist Michael Lin’s Pentachrome, a sprawling work inspired by a pair of Chinese porcelain vases on view at the museum, is the first-ever site-specific installation commissioned for The Met’s Great Hall Escalator. Lining the walls flanking the escalator, Pentachrome aims to establish a visual connection between “the Museum’s architecture and the Chinese ceramics displayed nearby,” according to a press announcement.

“Michael Lin’s exciting installation activates the escalator in an immersive and unexpected manner, while also raising thought-provoking considerations about the history of displaying Chinese ceramics in The Met’s iconic Great Hall,” said Max Hollein, director of The Met, in a statement.

Chinese ceramics have been a longtime staple within the museum’s iconic Great Hall, particularly along the second-floor balcony, and have been on view in the soaring space for more than a century. As The Met detailed in its announcement, the “sinuous forms and vibrant colors of these Chinese artworks have served as both foil and adornment to the neoclassical architecture, which is defined by cool limestone surfaces, soaring columns, domes and arches, and long, regular balustrades.”

The museum further elaborated:

“Over time, while the Museum’s collection has grown and its understanding of other cultures has evolved, this fundamental relationship between European architecture and Chinese adornment has persisted.

Pentachrome spotlights, explores, and inverts this relationship. As visitors travel up the escalator, they are surrounded by images of birds and flowers drawn from two Qing-dynasty porcelain vases that have been enlarged to heroic, overwhelming scale. Inspired by street poster (‘wild posting’) campaigns seen in the urban landscape, Lin applies the images in a cumulative, irregular way, breaking down the formal Museum environment and inviting the casual engagement of the street. By surrounding and immersing visitors in these images, Lin invites us to look and think more deeply about their paradoxical role—one that is both central and sidelined—within the history of the Museum’s Great Hall.”

True to the wild posting that served as an inspiration for Lin’s work, the same type of posters that now line the escalator walls at the museum will appear for a limited time throughout East Harlem, Queens, and Manhattan’s Chinatown. The wild posting “campaign signals the piece’s conceptual and aesthetic connection to the New York City streetscape, inviting all to engage with the commission and The Met collection,” the museum explained.

While the Pentachrome wild posting campaign is an ephemeral affair, Lin’s installation at The Met’s Great Hall Escalator is ongoing and will likely be around for the long-haul.