The Shed, the new multidisciplinary performing-arts center slated to open on Manhattan’s booming West Side in the spring of 2019, announced new commissions for its inaugural season at a press event this afternoon. By way of a panel discussion convened in a room overlooking construction of the behemoth building on West 30th Street in Hudson Yards, talk turned quickly to courting diverse audiences and mixing up artistic modes. “If the range of artists you present represents the range of society, then you have a chance,” said Alex Poots, the Shed’s artistic director and CEO.
The first commission for next year will be Soundtrack of America, a work meant to address the history of African-American music from 1680 to the present as conceived by the filmmaker Steve McQueen, record producer Quincy Jones, New York University professor Maureen Mahon, and Dion “No I.D.” Wilson, whose credits as a hip-hop producer include work with Jay-Z and Kanye West. Charting such a lineage is important because “history can be lost,” No I.D. said in a video presenting the project (with Jones, ever-present in the news of late, in a wild silk smoking jacket). As described by Mahon, the work will address music ranging from spirituals and jazz to techno and house—”we may even get to trap at the end,” she added.
Other commissioned projects include a collaboration matching the painter Gerhard Richter with the musicians Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt; a show of work by the artist Trisha Donnelly; a performance conceived in part by the poet Anne Carson on the subject of Marilyn Monroe and Helen of Troy; Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a piece by Chen Shi-Zheng, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Akram Khan, and Tim Yip; and a survey show to be the largest thus far in New York for the artist Agnes Denes, whose work will fill two large galleries in what Denes herself called “a funky building that inhales and exhales.”
Also among the announcements was “Open Call,” a large-scale commissioning program for “early-career artists from all disciplines who live or work in New York City,” and “Dis Obey,” a workshop program for teenagers from around town. In addition, Hans Ulrich Obrist was named the Shed’s senior program adviser, and naming rights were granted for the Shed’s main hall, to be ordained the McCourt after a $45 million gift from board member Frank H. McCourt.