New York Exhibits: Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet at The Cloisters. September 10–December 8, 2013
The Forty Part Motet (2001), a sound installation by Janet Cardiff (Canadian, born 1957), will be the first presentation of contemporary art at The Cloisters, the medieval wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in Fort Tryon Park. Regarded as the artist’s masterwork, and consisting of forty high-fidelity speakers positioned on stands in a large oval configuration throughout the Fuentidueña Chapel, the fourteen-minute work, with a three-minute spoken prologue, will continuously play an eleven-minute reworking of the forty-part motet Spem in alium numquam habui (1556?/1573?) by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis (ca. 1505–1585). Spem in alium, which translates as “In No Other Is My Hope,” is perhaps Tallis’s most famous composition.
The Forty Part Motet is most often presented in a neutral setting, but in this case the setting is the Cloisters’ Fuentidueña Chapel, which features the late twelfth-century apse from the church of San Martín at Fuentidueña, near Segovia, Spain, on permanent loan from the Spanish Government.