In Alfred Hitchcock’s gender-bending suspense masterpiece Psycho, the ominous manse of the Bates family stands on a hill, overlooking the family’s highway hotel. For the next six months, though, the Bates house — or an American gothic mansion that looks quite like it — has been transported to the roof of the Met, overlooking vista of Central Park.
From now until Halloween, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden will play host to the PsychoBarn, a 30-foot tall sculpture by British artist Cornelia Parker. Although it looks much like the famous Hitchcock set, the PsychoBarn was also designed to evoke the iconic horror set’s original inspiration: The House by the Railroad, a classic painting by Edward Hopper that hangs at the MoMA. Parker says that she wanted to merge the “wholesome” quality of barns that prompts politicians to stand in front of them for photo ops, with what the Psycho house represents: “the dark psychological stuff you don’t want to look at.”
But why it called a PsychoBarn instead of a PsychoHouse? When she was originally approached by the Met to create an installation for their rooftop garden, Parker says was overawed by the view of nearby Central Park. Surrounded by an ocean of greenery swallowed by a busy city skyline, Parker imagined adding “incongruous” sight of a red barn. But a barn was too big for the Met’s roof, so Parker realized she’d have to settle for something smaller.
So the artist compromised. “I thought, well, why don’t I make the house out of the red barn?” Parker says. “I collaborated with a restoration company, who go around America and they take down old barns. So the roof of this house is made from the corrugated metal from the barn roof. The siding is made obviously from the siding of the barn. So this is the [same] barn, reconfigured.”
Although the PsychoBarn is empty on the inside, the sculpture has actually been constructed in the same way Psycho‘s original Bates Mansion set was. There’s only two sides, supported by scaffolding; view it from any other angle, and the empty interior is revealed. That means despite the PsychoBarn’s creepy exterior, there’s no mummified corpse sitting in a wheelchair, staring out the dusty attic oculus with her dead black eyes.
Anyone else just a little disappointed?