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Kosovar Sculptors Make Their Mark in New York’s Met with Doodle Art

by Ikenna Ngere
Kosovar Sculptors Make Their Mark in New York's Met with Doodle Art

The yearly Roof Garden contract from the Met includes sculptures by Petrit Halilaj that are reminiscent of scribbles.

This week, Petrit Halilaj, an artist born in Kosovo (b. 1986), opened an exhibition on a very rare canvas: the rooftop of the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

This most recent version of his massive “Abetare” project, which debuted in 2015, is based on a great deal of study and includes about 3,000 doodlings he discovered on student tables at his previous school in Kosovo as well as in other Balkan nations.

Halilaj’s first significant outdoor project is a series of sculptures atop the Met that are three-dimensional versions of his doodles.

Even though the sculptures are whimsical—his steel and bronze pieces feature a spider, flower, and stars, for instance—they serve as a moving representation of collective memory and a window into the thoughts and imaginations of young students growing up in the wake of the region’s terrible conflict and division.

“The casual scribbles of schoolchildren done on their desks in moments of boredom or distraction reveal the fantasies and dreams of their minds,” the artist explains.

The exhibition title alludes to the education that thousands of children in Kosovo were deprived during the 1990s conflicts; it is drawn from a book that the kids use to learn the alphabet in school.

The piece had great personal significance for Halilaj, who was compelled to move to an Albanian refugee camp during his early childhood and found solace and healing in art.


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