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New Green Space Creates Outdoor Arts Showcase and Performance Venue, Connecting Nasher Museum and Rubenstein Arts Center

Duke University is building the first outdoor space on campus dedicated to the arts with a $1.5 million project at Campus Drive and Anderson Street. The new green space will showcase the arts, visually connecting the Nasher Museum of Art and Rubenstein Arts Center.

This new green oasis establishes a gateway to the Duke Arts District along Campus Drive. The Nasher Museum will inaugurate the space on September 28 with a work of performance art by Israeli-born artist Naama Tsabar in collaboration with local musicians.

We are overjoyed with this project. My vision has always been to activate the space outside the Nasher. Our founding benefactor Raymond D. Nasher always talked about sculpture surrounding the ‘museum on a hill.’ This creates an entirely new experience for Duke and all visitors, a new engagement with art that combines nature, beauty and scholarly pursuits to enrich our lives.

Sarah Schroth, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum (pictured left with artist Naama Tsabar)

The park-like space comprises a 7,000-square-foot piazza that frames a green square suited for musical, dance and theatrical performances. A 50-foot-long gallery bench of stone will provide space for rest and study. The Nasher Museum will install one new sculpture within the landscaped forest and meadow, with more sculpture installations to follow.

A 32-foot exterior wall of the Nasher Museum, which had been obscured before the arts space, will be ideal for outdoor film screenings.

In 2020, the Nasher Museum plans to commission a vivid street painting across Campus Drive, between the museum and the Ruby.

The space is designed by West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture, based in Rotterdam and New York. Groundbreaking will begin in May 2019.

Naama Tsabar, Composition 21 from the Composition series (2006–ongoing). Performed first in New Orleans in 2017 as part of Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp. Photo by J Caldwell.

Opening Event: September 28

Brooklyn-based, Israeli-born artist Naama Tsabar creates an aurally and visually immersive performance, featuring 21 local musicians who identify as women and/or gender nonconforming. Divided into three bands, individual musicians stand atop their amplifiers, each band playing a separate song. All songs share the same four chords, musical scale, and beats per minute. At one point all three bands play simultaneously and the result is a dense but harmonious musical field. As the songs seep into one another, the musicians form a sculptural composition that complements both the sonic arrangement and the outdoor space.

For visitors, sound becomes physical as they move amongst the musicians standing on their pedestal-like amplifiers. Past Composition works were presented at Herzliya Museum of Art in Israel, in New Orleans as part of Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, in New York City on the High Line and at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Composition 21 will be performed twice, once at 2 PM and again at 4 PM. Each performance will last approximately one hour.

Composition 21 by Naama Tsabar is organized by Melissa Gwynn, Exhibitions and Publications Manager, and Trevor Schoonmaker, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art.

The performance is commissioned by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Composition 21 is supported by The Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Fund for Exhibitions and is made possible, in part, by Ellen Cassilly, Frank Konhaus and the Cassilhaus Artist-in-Residence Program.

Radcliffe Bailey, Vessel (detail), 2017. Steel, Conch shell, stereo; 151 x 104 x 104 inches (383.5 x 264.2 x 264.2 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Fund for Acquisitions, 2018.9.1. © Radcliffe Bailey. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo by J Caldwell.

First Sculpture

Radcliffe Bailey, Vessel (detail), 2017. Steel, Conch shell, stereo; 151 x 104 x 104 inches (383.5 x 264.2 x 264.2 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Fund for Acquisitions, 2018.9.1. © Radcliffe Bailey. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo by J Caldwell.
Radcliffe Bailey, Vessel (detail), 2017. Steel, Conch shell, stereo; 151 x 104 x 104 inches (383.5 x 264.2 x 264.2 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Fund for Acquisitions, 2018.9.1. © Radcliffe Bailey. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo by J Caldwell.

The Nasher Museum will install Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey as the first sculpture in the new park. Vessel is a 13-foot cone of steel with an open ceiling that creates a skyscape, while a conch shell perched high emanates an ambient soundscape. The conch shell loosely alludes to ocean crossings and the Middle Passage in the Atlantic slave trade, recurring themes in the artist’s work.

Bailey takes an uplifting and transporting approach with Vessel, bringing visitors closer to a spiritual journey into the unknown. Music is a recurring subject in Bailey’s work. This is the second work by Bailey to enter the Nasher Museum’s collection.

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

Exterior nighttime view of the Nasher Museum. Photo by Duke Photography.

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is a major center for the arts in Durham. Since opening in 2005, the museum has presented leading-edge exhibitions that travel worldwide. The museum’s groundbreaking collection of contemporary art emphasizes work by diverse artists who have been historically underrepresented, with a focus on artists of African descent. Dynamic programs include free Family Days, performances, lectures and social gatherings. The Nasher Museum Café features local, seasonal ingredients and the Nasher Museum Store offers gifts inspired by art. More than 1 million people have visited the museum.

Rubenstein Arts Center

Rubenstein Arts Center
Rubenstein Arts Center

The Rubenstein Arts Center is a catalyst for creativity and a new home for making art at Duke University. The Ruby was designed to grow artistic innovation at Duke through uniting different forms of creative expression under one roof, by providing artists at every level with the space to flourish, and connecting on-campus creativity with the wider Durham community. The Ruby opened in January 2018 and encompasses flexible multipurpose studios, seminar classrooms, a makerspace, a gallery, the von der Heyden Studio Theater, a film theater and more. The Ruby is also home to the programs in Dance and the Arts of the Moving Image and WXDU 88.7 FM, Duke’s student-run radio station.

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