Things are quieting down at the Museum after a whirlwind of installation, openings, parties and free food over the past few weeks… And all this excitement has been centered around one man—Tony Feher—and his incredible site-determined installation that will grace our G. W. Anderson Family Great Hall for the upcoming year.
I’ll give you a little background about Tony and his artwork first, and then I’ll catch you up on all the craziness that has been the UMFA since mid-September.
Tony Feher is a sculptor who lives in New York and uses common, often disregarded, objects in order to highlight overlooked aspects of architecture. Whitney Tassie, our curator of modern and contemporary art, commissioned Tony to create a custom, site-determined piece for the UMFA’s Great Hall—a massive space that can be very tricky to fill.
When approaching projects such as this, Feher examines the space and looks for a “trick” in the architecture that will guide his work. In this instance, he was struck by the great volume of space in the room, the punctuation of doors and windows, and the sightlines from the upstairs galleries and balconies.
Tony’s solution was to suspend pink flagging tape from the ceiling to reveal the true height of the room and reference an upside-down kelp forest—specifically a weirder and wilder version like one that might appear in the Great Salt Lake. Tony also decided to use overlapping blue painter’s tape to cover the window in the Great Hall, creating a stained-glass effect that serves to both alter the color of light entering the space and isolate the viewer from the outside world.
Hanging the flagging tape only took a few days of installation, a few brave collections staffers, and one very tall lift. The window, however, took Tony almost two full weeks to plan and execute. Timing was a struggle, as the light was only perfect for a few hours—in the mornings before noon and from about 5-7pm—each day. In the end, all this hard work resulted in an incredible installation that looks stunning in photographs, but requires an immersive experience to truly appreciate the power of the piece. Which brings me to the rest of the excitement…
Before the installation had been completed, on Tuesday night, September 30, MUSE (My U Signature Experience) planned one of their MUSE Nights Out to see the installation. Students from a wide array of majors (sustainability, political science, psychology, business, theatre, dance, film, chemistry, economics, history, etc.) met at the Museum, were given a brief introduction to the piece, and then dove in. Tony joined the group in lying on the hardwood floors to gaze up at the piece, as he discussed his ideas and inspiration with the students. Unfortunately, this was during those magic hours of perfect light, so Tony had to return to his installation while the rest of the group ventured to Indochine for a delicious dinner and enlightening conversation.
Thursday night, October 2nd, the Great Hall was opened to the public for an installation preview and Tony’s artist talk. Thursday was followed by an even more hectic/exciting day on Friday… the official opening day of the installation and the night of our After-Hours Party. From 8-11pm, the UMFA dimmed the lights, added music and snacks, and rocked out. DJ ChaseOne2 supplied the beats for the party, while the Blended Table provided food and drinks. VIPs were given the chance to mingle with Feher in the Mod-a-go-go Lounge, while the rest of the party got down out on the dance floor or posed for photos in front of Feher’s window installation “photo booth.”
We brought our Feher-filled weeks to a close with the Feher Fair. University of Utah students were invited to come into the Museum to check out the new installation and then head back outside for free hot dogs from World Dog and free vegan popsicles from Indy Pops.
Tony Feher’s installation is titled They arrived yesterday, dusty and weary from the journey, but in good spirits. which is meant to reference Tony’s life of travel, as well as allude to Utah’s pioneer history—but I think it’s a perfect way to describe how we’re all feeling now that it’s complete. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere anytime soon! If you haven’t seen the installation yet (or if you have and just can’t get enough), it will be up in the Great Hall until the end of 2015.