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'The Return' Premieres Tonight at the Metropolitan Museum

A digital performance installation premiering at The Metropolitan Museum of Art this July will combine innovative animation technology with live performance to investigate dynamically the long restoration of Tullio Lombardo's shattered sculptural masterpiece Adam (ca. 1490-95). The Return, created by director and new media artist Reid Farrington, will offer a startling new experience for Met visitors through its pioneering use of interactive digital theater.

Tullio's Adam is now considered one of the greatest sculptures of the Italian Renaissance. The Return-designed specifically for the Met, and staged in the recently created gallery devoted to Venetian Sculpture of the Renaissance (Gallery 504)- will premiere tonight, July 11, and run continuously during Museum hours through Sunday, August 2. The installation of this gallery was made possible by Assunta Sommella Peluso, Ignazio Peluso, Ada Peluso and Romano I. Peluso.

Tragically, in 2002, the modern pedestal on which Adam stood buckled and the piece fell to the floor, breaking into more than 200 fragments. It took 12 years to restore the sculpture using methods that were technically arduous and, like Farrington's responding work, extremely advanced scientifically.

"Tullio's Adam is all about creation, God's and the artist's," said Luke Syson, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. "So I'm truly thrilled that the sculpture has inspired Reid to create a new work of art, one that is as innovative in our own day as Tullio's was in his."

Free with Museum admission, this commission creatively, poetically, even humorously parallels the statue's fall from its pedestal with the biblical narrative of Adam's fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. A digital avatar was created from the 3D scans of the broken pieces of the sculpture that were instrumental in planning its reconstruction. This avatar, seen through a life-size digital "window" in the gallery, will be controlled by live performers using a motion-capture system. A performer "docent" in the gallery space will lead visitors through the work's extraordinary story arc. Museumgoers will hear from a variety of characters: Biblical Adam; Tullio Lombardo's Adam; and The Digital Adam, the avatar of the sculpture inspired by the digital Adam that Met scientists and conservators created to rehearse the restoration process.

Controlling the avatar in real time, the live motion capture performers and a team of technical operators will be located in The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, which will be open so that visitors can step behind-the-scenes and observe the studio environment and motion-capture aspects of the production. Over the course of the production's 23 days, three separate teams (one "Adam" and one "Docent") will perform the script, which was written by Sara Farrington. The story incorporates high tech new media as well as Renaissance masterworks, and explores the scientific conservation triumph that brought about the return of this masterpiece.

Reid Farrington (who was behind Tyson vs. Ali in 2014) creates visual art pieces that use contemporary digital technology as a method of storytelling. Alongside a team of animators and software developers, he undertook 18 months of intensive research, and he worked in collaboration with curators from the Met's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. The Return is an inventive installation and historical guide, and a pioneer in digital technology.

"The Return is the most ambitious project we've commissioned to date," said Limor Tomer, General Manager, Concert & Lectures at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "This performance installation literally breathes life into a stunning sculptural masterpiece, and through the virtual puppetry of game designer Athomas Goldberg, and the support of R. Luke Dubois at New York University's Media and Games Network, Reid Farrington has created an unprecedented performative experience that will connect the visitor to the work of art in a completely new way."

The Return is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Tullio Lombardo's Adam: A Masterpiece Restored, which was on view at the Met November 11, 2014-June 14, 2015. As of July 11, when performances of The Return begin, the sculpture will have been moved from its exhibition location at the center of the Venetian Sculpture of the Renaissance gallery to a specially constructed niche, a few feet away within the same gallery, where it will reside permanently.

The Return is made possible by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Sarah Billinghurst Solomon.


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