A sculpture of a bull by artist Adrián Villar Rojas.

A sculpture by acclaimed Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas.
Photo credit: iesse at Flickr Creative Commons.

Adrián Villar Rojas, Argentinian artist and worldwide exhibitor, was exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art when he was struck by the way that the museum, any museum, removes things from daily life and “freezes” them.

“In some way or another, I wanted to play with the doodles of culture,” the thirty-seven-year-old said of his project “The Theater of Disappearance.”

To that aim, Rojas used a 3D scanner to replicate hundreds of objects from seventeen of the Met’s departments. Together, they’re to be strewn across banquet tables on the rooftop of the Met to entertain rooftop revelers at the museum.

The replicas include many classic statues, often combined in unlikely contortions, along with several replicas of the artist’s friends. There are also smaller objets d’art from the museum collections, and many, many copies of his own hands. Also mixed in are more casual detritus; sneakers, phones, dishes.

Rojas won the commission to ornament the roof garden in an open competition, by citing the “sociability” of the space. He said that he wanted to do away with what he sees as artificial categories in the museum.

“I worked under the ontological premise of imagining a museum without divisions, without geopolitics, totally horizontal,” he said.

The museum staff were happy to help him. The Met’s imaging department assisted him in using both photogrammetry (making a 3D model from flat images shot with a camera) and a laser scanner. The replicas were then made via a computer-controlled mill out of rigid white foam. Finished with paint dust to look like plaster or marble or stone, they look passably ancient.

“The Theater of Disappearance,” opened on April 14th and will endure through the summer, closing October 29th. Visitors may use the museum’s study materials to make a scavenger hunt of identifying the originals behind each copied piece.