The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery is presenting the gift of music this month in the form of Lee Mingwei’s “Sonic Blossom.” The Taiwanese-born, American-educated Lee is internationally renowned for projects that prompt connections and invite trust, creativity and self-awareness. The first work by Lee to be presented in Washington, D.C., “Sonic Blossom” is a gift to museum visitors in honor of the Portrait Gallery’s 50th anniversary.
In what the museum describes as “performance art as portraiture,” individual visitors are randomly approached by a trained opera singer in a custom-designed gown and asked “May I give you the gift of song?” If the gift is accepted, the two will move to the National Portrait Gallery’s third-floor Great Hall, where the visitor will receive the transformative gift of one of Franz Schubert’s five lieder (art songs): “Du bist die Ruh,” “An den Mond,” “Frühlingsglaube,” “Nacht und Träume” or “Auf dem Wasser zu singen.” Twelve vocalists were selected, primarily from local talent.
The participatory artwork, the ninth performance of the museum’s “Identify: Performance Art“ series, will take place through April 29, Thursday through Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m. Next, “Sonic Blossom” will be presented at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France.
View Jeff Malet’s video of Lee Mingwei’s “Sonic Blossom” at the National Portrait Gallery, plus photos from the opening-day performance on April 5.