▶ Watch Video: Bronze sculptures grace New York’s Met Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has reopened, and visitors will find there’s art to see before they even step inside. 

The front of the museum is home to four bronze sculptures by Kenyan-American artist Wengechi Mutu, created for the inaugural Fifth Avenue façade commission – each placed inside empty niches on the building’s extrior. 

“I bet most people have never noticed that there are empty spaces in front of the Met?” asked “Sunday Morning” producer Sara Kugel.

“I think even some people at the Met didn’t notice that!” said the Met’s director, Max Hollein.

Niches in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s façade, empty since it was opened in 1902, are now graced with four seven-foot-high statues of female figures by Kenyan-American artist Wengechi Mutu.

CBS News

“For me, becoming director, I suddenly noticed these empty sculpture niches, and thought, ‘Okay, this is actually a great opportunity.'”

The spaces on the front of the Met have always been there since the museum was built in 1902, because, as Hollein said, “Essentially the museum ran out of money when they were building this building. So, these niches stayed empty ever since.”

But that changed in 2019, when they were filled with artwork by Wengechi Mutu. 

Two of the bronze figures from Wangechi Mutu’s Met Façade Commission, “The NewOnes, will free Us” (2019). 

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The seven-foot-high sculptures, called “The NewOnes, will free Us,” are inspired by caryatids – architectural columns shaped like female figures.

A caryatid, said museum curator Kelly Baum, was always intended to support someone or something else, “whether it’s a structure or a male king. And in this case, Wangechi has liberated the female caryatid from her role, her duty, her responsibility, and she’s given her an autonomy and independence all her own.”

The sculptures will remain outside until November 1. After that, two of them will join the museum’s permanent collection, here for visitors whenever they return.

“They’re meant to welcome visitors,” said Baum. “They speak to us in part through their posture, through their gaze. They demand our attention.”       

For more info:

Story produced by Sara Kugel and Roman Feeser. Editor: Chad Cardin.

Artist Wangechi Mutu podcast on “The NewOnes, will free us”

More from “Art Under the Sun”: