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As part of the year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary, The Cloisters museum and gardens — The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s branch museum dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe — will present The Forty Part Motet (2001), a sound installation by Janet Cardiff (Canadian, born 1957). Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet, which represents the first time a work of contemporary art has been shown at The Cloisters, opens September 10.
The installation is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Support for the project is provided in part by Sarah Peter and Rosamond Ivey.
Regarded as the artist’s masterwork, and consisting of 40 high-fidelity speakers positioned on stands in a large oval configuration within the Fuentidueña Chapel, the 14-minute work, with a three-minute spoken prologue, will play continuously an 11-minute reworking of the 40-part motet Spem in alium numquam habui (1556?/1573?) by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis (ca. 1505–1585). Spem in alium, which translates as In No Other Is My Hope, is perhaps Tallis’s most famous composition. Visitors will be encouraged to walk among the loudspeakers and hear the individual unaccompanied voices—bass, baritone, alto, tenor, and child soprano—one part per speaker—as well as engage in the polyphonic choral effect of the combined singers in an immersive experience. The Forty Part Motet is most often presented in a neutral gallery setting, but in this case the setting is The Cloisters’ Fuentidueña Chapel, which features the ca. 1175–1200 apse from the church of San Martín at Fuentidueña, near Segovia, Spain. The apse is on permanent loan from the Spanish Government. Set within a churchlike gallery space, and with superb acoustics, it has for more than 50 years proved to be a fine venue for concerts of early music.
Installation artist Janet Cardiff has exhibited extensively around the world, and her work is represented in major public and private collections in the United States and abroad. She first gained international recognition for her audio walk pieces in 1995, and she works in collaboration with her partner George Bures Miller. Cardiff and Miller live and work in British Columbia, Canada.
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