Peter Greenaway’s Armory Show Serves Last Supper

Film Artist Peter Greenaway. Photo by Slawek

Film Artist Peter Greenaway (undated). Photo by Slawek

I mentioned in a post last week that I intended to see Peter Greenaway’s installation, Last Supper, in the Park Avenue Armory while in New York.  It was a visually spectacular show and it had some things to say about the way we experience art and the relationship between art and technology.

Art and Technology

We can no longer view art and technology as uneasy allies.  Both serve each other and we should embrace this relationship.

An inventor of many prototypes including the submarine and airplane, it is difficult to imagine Leonardo Da Vinci objecting to Peter Greenaway’s use of his iconic painting, Last Supper.  Leonardo used the latest materials available to him in his own time; despite this, his paintings are rotting. Shows like Greenaway’s, give them new life.

The Santa Maria delle Grazie, Home of  Last Supper, Recreated in the Armory

You can buy tickets online far in advance to see the original painting, fly to Milan, wait in a long line inside Santa Maria delle Grazie (St. Mary of the Graces) and march past the painting. This is a moving experience but one that most people will not have. Greenaway has recreated Santa Maria delle Grazie within the Park Avenue Armory adding context to the experience.

The installation has already been viewed by thousands of people and counting.

Would you stare at a painting for 45 minutes — even if it was Last Supper?

Visitors are kept moving in the Santa Maria delle Grazie but even if you could stay as long as you wished, how long would that be?  Staring at a painting — even a great one– for more than fifteen minutes is not easy.  With the use of lights and music, Greenaway’s Last Supper renders new insights by the second, forever rescuing the work from cliche.

Informal Atmosphere

It is understandable that a certain decorum is maintained when viewing the original.  The work itself is vulnerable; visitors are expected to move around the space with care and they are after all, in a convent within a church.  But in Greenaway’s Last Supper, people are at the Armory where they can walk around and talk to each other about the work.  A relaxed, informal atmosphere mirrors the communal message of the work.

Is this high culture or low?  Is it technology or art?

Answer: “yes.”

Park Avenue Armory

643 Park Avenue

Closes January 6.

More information and to purchase tickets.