Répétiteur at New York City Center


Jorge Otero-Pailos presents a series of six site-specific works titled, Répétiteur, at New York City Center in October 2018, March 2019, and May 2019, as part of both the institution’s inaugural program of visual art commissions and the Merce Cunningham Centennial. Since its founding as Manhattan’s first ever performing arts center, New York City Center has been a home to artists from the worlds of dance, theater, opera, and music. In honor of its 75th Anniversary Season, City Center has organized an exhibition featuring the works of Otero-Pailos, photographer Nina Robinson, and conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner.

"City Center's visual arts program is an initiative that began about three years ago, when we started to offer our audiences a different entry point into our mainstage productions by exhibiting work related to our performance season," says Stanford Makishi, City Center’s Vice President for Programming. "For our 75th Anniversary, we sought to expand this program by commissioning original art, and we are very pleased that Jorge is joined by photographer Nina Robinson and conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner to celebrate, through their work, the past and future of City Center."

Known for his large-scale public art installations series The Ethics of Dust, which have been exhibited in the Venice Biennale, The Victoria & Albert Museum, British Parliament, and elsewhere, Otero-Pailos displays a new body of work in-situ in the Harkness Studio at New York City Center on custom light boxes with sound elements. The series of three week-long exhibitions provides the public with rare access to a space that has given life to famous dance pieces and that has witnessed masters transferring their knowledge from generation to generation.

Otero-Pailos draws attention to the material residue that the seemingly immaterial transfer of dance knowledge leaves behind: the dust and other residue left on the surfaces of the room by the labor of dancers. Transferring this residue onto illuminated peelings that cast the rehearsal room in an unusual meditative light, the artist introduces a mesmerizing sound collage to accompany each piece, highlighting how dancers learned a choreography by Merce Cunningham from Patricia Lent and other stagers of his work. The installation is an inspiring expression of the history, memory, and impermanence of dance and derives its name from the term “répétiteur,” a person entrusted with teaching, coaching and rehearsing a choreographer’s work.

“When Merce died, he left behind an intangible treasure. His dances don’t exist unless they are performed, recreated, repeated by a new generation of dancers who never met the master,” says Otero-Pailos. “I’m interested in the value of the labor that goes into keeping this intangible treasure in existence. The people authorized to stage Cunningham’s work, once dancers in his company, are now masters who teach his work to the next generation, creating a chain of transmission. The sweat, the pain, the labor of keeping the treasure over the years create dust that accumulates in the walls of the practice studio. I have cast this dust onto golden latex sheets and placed them in six treasure chests within the inner sanctum of the studio, where only initiated dancers are allowed. The golden chests reverberate with the sounds of Cunningham, his stagers (or répétiteurs), and young dancers learning famous choreographies staged at New York City Center.”

About Jorge Otero-Pailos

Jorge Otero-Pailos works at the intersection of art, architecture, and preservation. He is the Director and Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture in New York. He is the founder and editor of the journal Future Anterior, co-editor of Experimental Preservation (2016), author of Architecture’s Historical Turn (2010) and contributor to scholarly journals and books including the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics and Rem Koolhaas’ Preservation Is Overtaking Us (2014). He is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Puerto Rico, the Academy of Science and Culture of Ibero-America, and has received awards from major art, architecture, and preservation organizations, including the 2012 UNESCO Eminent Professional Award, the American Institute of Architects, the Kress Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the Fitch Foundation, and the Canadian Center for Architecture. Otero-Pailos studied architecture at Cornell University, holds a PhD from MIT, and was a founding faculty member of the School of Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. His work has been commissioned and exhibited by major museums, foundations and biennials notably, the Artangel Trust, the 53rd Venice Art Biennial, Victoria and Albert Museum, Louis Vuitton Museum La Galerie, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, the SFMoMA and the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

About New York City Center

NEW YORK CITY CENTER (Arlene Shuler, President & CEO) has played a defining role in the cultural life of the city since 1943. The landmark 75th Anniversary Season (2018 – 2019) pays tribute to this rich history and celebrates the institution’s singular role in the arts today. For 25 years, City Center’s Tony-honored Encores! series has been “an essential New York institution” (The New York Times). In 2013, City Center launched the Encores! Off-Center series, which features seminal Off-Broadway musicals filtered through the lens of today’s innovative artists. Dance has also been integral to the theater’s mission from the start and programs like the annual Fall for Dance Festival remain central to City Center’s identity. Home to a roster of renowned national and international companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (City Center’s Principal Dance Company) and Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City Center was Manhattan’s first performing arts center, founded by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia with the mission of making the best in music, theater, and dance accessible to all audiences. That mission continues today through robust education and community engagement programs which bring the performing arts to over 9,000 New York City students each year and the expansion of the theatrical experience to include art exhibitions, pre-show talks, and master classes that offer an up-close look at the work of the great theater and dance artists of our time.

About the Merce Cunningham Trust and the Merce Cunningham Centennial

The Merce Cunningham Trust preserves, enhances, and maintains the integrity of Cunningham’s artistic work and processes, and makes his works available to the public. Established by Cunningham in 2000, the Trust promotes Cunningham’s artistic legacy as a living, breathing thing, passed down to those who embody, view, or perceive it. The Trust looks toward a vital future, forging community by promoting public engagement with Cunningham’s work, celebrating his unique contributions, and seeing his influence reflected in the works of new generations of choreographers and dancers.

The Trust, in partnership with artists, companies, and cultural and educational institutions around the world, has organized the Merce Cunningham Centennial, a multifaceted celebration of the choreographer that began this month and continues throughout 2019.

Répétiteur by Jorge Otero-Pailos

Harkness Studio

New York City Center

Entrance via 130 W 56th St, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10019

Public Exhibition Hours (FREE to the public):

March 2 - 10, 2019, 10 AM to 6 PM

April 29 - May 5, 2019, 10 AM to 6 PM

For additional inquiries or preview please contact:

Laurence Lafforgue

Studio Director, Otero Pailos Studio:


Installation view of Courtesy of Paula Lobo and SOE Studio,  © Jorge Otero-Pailos