Made from discarded construction materials common to the Chinese landscape, Xu Bing's majestic phoenixes combine elements of folklore and political commentary. Weighing over 12 tons and measuring more than 90 feet long each, the installation required special accommodations to the late 19th century St. John the Divine, the fourth largest church in the world. Massive scaffolding was built to hold the sculptures 20 feet off the ground and between the magnificent stained glass windows.
Having missed the Xu Bing exhibition at Mass MOCA, Jim and I went down to New York last weekend to see the two mythical birds in their new home, where they were installed over four days earlier this month. I'm glad we waited. Entering the towering cathedral on Amsterdam at 112th just before 5pm last Sunday, we were coincidentally treated to an organ recital by Marijim Thoene of Ann Arbor, Michigan on the newly restored Great Organ.
Contemplating the birds soaring over the nave of the church while listening to the spiritual music of Alan Hovhaness was a unique experience shared with perhaps 100 other people – and never to be repeated. The installation will be up through the year so make sure you time your visit with the concert schedule: http://www.stjohndivine.org/programs