MET Ring 2011: Siegfried Meets Fritz Lang

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 | 12:20:00 am

Peter Doig
Leading contemporary artist Peter Doig will open Siegfried + Poster Project, a new exhibition inspired by Wagner's epic Der Ring des Nibelungen, at the Arnold & Marie Schwartz Gallery Met on September 27. The Scottish-born Doig is the third artist to create a Gallery Met show in conjunction with the Met's Robert Lepage-directed new production of the Ring cycle. Lepage's staging of Siegfried, in which the hero battles treacherous dwarves, a mysterious Wanderer, and the dragon Fafner to win the hand of the warrior maiden Brünnhilde, will premiere on October 27.

Doig's work is celebrated for its vivid combinations of colors and gentle abstraction, which many critics and art lovers admire for its ability to idealize otherwise prosaic subjects. His best-known works are multi-layered landscapes, often depicting nostalgic scenes from unusual perspectives. He has been nominated for the Turner Prize, won the John Moores Foundation Prize, and has had solo exhibitions in New York, London, and throughout Europe.

Siegfried + Poster Project contains four large-scale distemper posters with images of the opera's hero. One of Doig's sources of inspiration for these posters was the 1924 Fritz Lang film Die Nibelungen, a German Expressionist adaptation of the same source legends Wagner used as the foundation for the Ring. The style of the posters is similar to the weekly advertisements Doig paints for his studiofilmclub, a screening series the artist co-created to bring international cinema to his hometown of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

In addition, one large-scale painting, Siegfried & Brünnhilde, will hang inside the opera house, at the top of the stairs to the Grand Tier. The painting depicts the climax of the opera, when the hero walks through a circle of fire to awaken the sleeping warrior maiden he is destined to love.
"I was going to avoid the literal but in the end succumbed to Siegfried awakening Brünnhilde with a kiss. Listening to the music, which is so visual in so many ways, inspired me in this direction, and of course it is such a passionate scene," said Doig, who is well aware of the passionate attachment Ring lovers have to Wagner's masterwork. "I'm not by any means a Wagner person, so it's a real challenge to take it in and give it an interpretation. The Ring has got such a mystique about it, and history, and people become obsessed with it. Having listened so much recently whilst painting, I am beginning to understand why."

Doig is the third contemporary artist Gallery Met Director Dodie Kazanjian has asked to create a Ring-themed exhibition. Last season, Gallery Met presented Julie Mehretu's Notations After the Ring and Elizabeth Peyton's Wagner.

"What's so great when you get artists of this caliber-young, but also in their prime-is you see where their minds go in tackling a subject that maybe they haven't thought about before," Kazanjian said. "I've always admired Peter's work-his unique ability to convey a vivid narrative in such richly satisfying visual terms. It also interested me that he is so involved with film and film history, with his studiofilmclub."

Gallery Met, located in the south lobby of the opera house, is open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 6 p.m. to the end of the last intermission and Saturdays from noon to the end of the evening performance's last intermission. Admission is free and no appointments are required. Gallery Met is closed on Sundays.

 For more infomation on the Met's contemporary visual arts initiatives, which are curated by Dodie Kazanjian, please visit www.metopera.org/gallerymet.

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