If JR Builds It…They Will Come

January 23, 2014

He wears sunglasses indoors. He parties with rock stars and hip-hop trendsetters. He’s shown work in museums including the Tate Modern in London and Art Basel in Miami, as well as en plein air (he’s French)—at the site of the separation wall between Israel and Palestine, a bridge in Paris and a mountainside in Brazil. He’s also a recipient of the prestigious TED Prize, joining the ranks of such luminaries as Bill Clinton and Bono.


And for the last nine months, JR has been exploring our world, creating a large-scale installation for New York City Ballet’s second annual Art Series.


The view of NYC’s Koch Theater

Images by JR via Instagram


The work was unveiled at NYCB’s opening night on Tuesday, but last night’s first of three “New York City Ballet Art Series Presents JR” performances brought many new (many bearded) faces to New York City’s David H. Koch Theater in droves. That is, after all, the point. According to a NYCB press release, “During the inaugural season of the series, which featured a collaboration with the Brooklyn-based artist collective FAILE, 70% of audience members attending the two Art Series performances were new to NYCB.” I’d venture to say last night’s event was even more successful. The theater was completely full—online tickets have also sold out for the next two Art Series nights—and buzzing with hip, fresh and creative energy.


Bringing in one of the wooden palettes. Photo by JR via Instagram.


Compared to a typical night at the ballet, I’m guessing the median age of attendees dropped by a solid 25–30 years, and I don’t think it was only the result of $29 tickets and the free Brooklyn Brewery refreshments during the DJ-ed after-party. Bring in a highly followed (he has more than 323,000 Instagram fans) and young (he’s only 30) artist, and people will come. All swell ideas for performing arts institutions nationwide.


Yes, that’s a DJ working the third ring.


Left: The view from the top, photo by JR via Instagram; right: Tiler Peck up-close


Did I mention the installation was breathtaking? Viewed from above in the fourth ring, JR’s 6,500 square-foot portrait becomes a 3–D masterpiece, with more than 80 dancers enveloped in waves of what looks like white fabric in the shape of an eye. Up close, you’re standing on close-to-life-size photographs of the dancers, laying on white paper. There were also artworks transferred onto wooden palettes in the theater house and huge photographs transforming the outside of the Koch Theater. The work will be on display during NYCB’s winter season through March 2, and you can view the installations free of charge on select dates. For more info, click here.




As for the performance, the highlights included Tiler Peck making her debut in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, Rebecca Krohn in Balanchine’s Kammermusik No. 2, and Teresa Reichlen, Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz in Balanchine’s Rubies. (Disclaimer: JR did leave after the opener, Kammermusik No. 2Krohn was absolutely fabulous onstage, but the long and dissonant Hindemith score may not have been exactly easy for any ballet newcomer. Take a look at JR’s Instagram feed, and it’s clear he’s gotten to know NYCB and its dancers well.)  


: I’ve just been told that JR did, in fact stay through the evening, moving to backstage to get a more spectacular view. Here’s hoping he got a few more pictures like the one he took below, from Nutcracker. 


Behind-the-scenes of NYCB’s snow scene; photo by JR via Instagram.