In the warm, welcoming new David Geffen Hall beloved musical works by the old masters coexist harmoniously alongside newly minted pieces by 20th- and 21st–century giants. The same exhilarating mix of periods and styles can be found in the visual art that graces the transformed hall. Here’s a brief tour of the two major pieces on exhibit in the hall’s inaugural season, as well as the “permanent collection.”
Two pieces were commissioned for the hall’s reopening by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in collaboration with The Studio Museum in Harlem and Public Art Fund.
1. Those heading down Broadway from the north can’t help but see the hall’s largest artwork, San Juan Heal (2022) © by Nina Chanel Abney. The colorful collage pays homage to San Juan Hill, the largely Black and Puerto Rican neighborhood razed in the 1950s to make way for Lincoln Center. Two of its thirty-five panels depict San Juan Hill’s own Thelonious Monk and Barbara Hillary, the first Black woman to reach the North and South Poles.
2. Once in the Karen and Richard LeFrak Lobby, you’ll encounter the 50-foot-long video installation that dominates the Hauser Digital Wall (when concerts aren’t being streamed) — An Eclectic Dance to the Music of Time (2022) © by Jacolby Satterwhite (courtesy of the Artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York), a half-hour video tribute to the performing arts. Sinuous dancers twirl through a fantastical streetscape filled with representations of artistic forebears, including Leonard Bernstein, Marian Anderson, and musical prodigy Philippa Schuyler as well as present-day performers. (Fun fact: Satterwhite often incorporates drawings by his mother, Patricia Satterwhite, into his installations.) Eagle-eyed art lovers will also spot pieces that had been displayed before, now in new locations in this completely reimagined setting.
3. Stand on the Josie Robertson Plaza and look up at the Leni and Peter May Terrace to see Seymour Lipton’s Archangel (1964) and Dimitri Hadzi’s K. 458 The Hunt (1964), a pair of imposing bronzes that were moved from the lobby to the new location for greater visibility. In a New York Times interview, Lipton called Archangel “a sort of Hallelujah sculpture” inspired by Handel’s Messiah. Hadzi’s work was inspired by an eponymous Mozart string quartet.
4. Tucked into a corner of the lobby sits David Smith’s Zig IV (1961, opposite, bottom), a Cubist-inspired angular structure of intersecting steel plates. Although renowned as a sculptor, Smith always thought of himself as a painter — thus, the abstract painting that covers the surfaces of this three-dimensional work.
5. The Hearst Tier 1 is a mini sculpture gallery displaying impactful musicians. On the east side you will find Auguste Rodin’s 1909 bust of Gustav Mahler, who led the Philharmonic from 1909 to 1911. According to Mahler’s wife, Alma, the composer hated sitting for portraits, which he considered “time wasted away from his work.”
On the west side, Antoine Bourdelle (a student of Rodin’s) is represented with the Tragic Mask of Beethoven (1901). The sculptor worshiped Beethoven, once remarking, “Every cry from this deaf man who was listening to God struck straight to my soul.”
You’ll also see Sir Jacob Epstein’s 1928 bust of bass-baritone Paul Robeson, who made six appearances with the Philharmonic in the 1930s and ’40s. The two men met in New York in 1927 and became fast friends, visiting jazz clubs in Harlem, and Robeson sang lullabies to Epstein’s little girl.
See a full gallery of the art pieces at the new David Geffen Hall below.