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MET Roof Garden Commission: Petrit Halilaj’s Playful Doodles Come to Life

MET Roof Garden Commission: Petrit Halilaj's Playful Doodles Come to Life

In a highly anticipated event, the MET Museum’s 2024 Roof Garden Commission will showcase the incredible talent of Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj. Inspired by the whimsical drawings of his childhood, Halilaj has created a collection of metal sculptures titled Abetare. This marks his first venture into the world of outdoor works, making it an exciting debut for the artist.

MET Roof Garden Commission: Petrit Halilaj's Playful Doodles Come to Life

Abetare draws inspiration from the playful doodles and scribbles found on school desks in Runik, Kosovo, as well as schools in Albania and other countries in the former Yugoslavia. These regions are currently undergoing significant cultural and socio-political changes. The resulting installation is a captivating exploration of the intersection between reality and fantasy, offering viewers an immersive experience that overlooks the bustling urban landscape of New York.

MET Roof Garden Commission: Petrit Halilaj's Playful Doodles Come to Life

Running until October 27, 2024, Abetare by Petrit Halilaj transforms the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden at the MET Museum. The installation features a series of metal sculptures depicting flowers, spiders, stick figures, and superheroes. Enlarged from the furtive drawings found on children’s desks, these three-dimensional sculptures retain the essence of the original sketches. They provide a glimpse into the collective memory and imagination of generations affected by traumatic conflicts and territorial divisions, particularly during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

The title Abetare is derived from the book used by Halilaj and his peers to learn the alphabet. Each letter was linked to lessons in pictures and text, creating a strong connection between education and art. This adds another layer of depth to the installation, highlighting the power of creativity and imagination in shaping our understanding of the world.

MET Roof Garden Commission: Petrit Halilaj's Playful Doodles Come to Life

This project by Halilaj, Abetare, builds upon his previous work in Kosovo by expanding its reach to encompass the broader Balkan region. It challenges binary ideologies and aims to create connections between nations and individual experiences. The artwork incorporates cultural references to political ideologies, religions, and local heroes, while also including universal symbols and playful nods to pop culture, art history, and sports. These elements merge with the architecture and landscape of the garden to form a complex narrative.

MET Roof Garden Commission: Petrit Halilaj's Playful Doodles Come to Life

Abetare celebrates the natural human impulse for personal expression and encourages viewers to imagine transformative futures, fostering a sense of discovery and creativity. Halilaj explains that the inspiration for this project came from observing the scribbles of schoolchildren, which he believes reveal their inner fantasies and dreams. By showcasing desks and scribbles from schools across the Balkans in a new context, Halilaj aims to extend the dreams of his homeland to a wider audience.

MET Roof Garden Commission: Petrit Halilaj's Playful Doodles Come to Life

The Met is excited to present Halilaj’s intervention on the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, as it sparks meaningful conversations between the artist’s work, the museum, the Manhattan skyline, and beyond. Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and Chief Executive Officer, praises Halilaj’s work for its ability to reframe the role of childhood imagination in the retelling of history, highlighting its deep roots in the artist’s homeland while also looking towards the future with an international perspective.

To learn more about Abetare by Petrit Halilaj, visit the MET Museum’s website. This is an opportunity to witness the transformative power of art and explore the rich cultural heritage of Kosovo and the Balkans. Don’t miss out on this extraordinary exhibition!

Image courtesy of Hyla Skopitz / Met Museum