The N.C. Museum of Art’s preview of its new outdoor expansion featured lots of serious, high-minded talk about design, art and the environment. But it took place against a backdrop of giant rabbits – and it was hard to pay attention to much else.
Consisting of five inflated bunnies, up to 25 feet tall and in a variety of poses, “Intrude” is a playful exhibit by the Australian artist Amanda Parer. The rabbits will be on display (and lit up until 8 p.m. nightly) through Nov. 6 as the first big exhibition at the museum’s newly named Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park.
“The bunnies defy boundaries and operate across different cultures, languages, ages,” said Chris Wangro, Parer’s producer and partner, who is overseeing the display. “Little kids react to them one way, the art world another. The world of design and architecture loves them as placemakers that draw people to a new place. They work equally well for a rock festival or a museum opening.”
In the case of the N.C. Museum of Art, the bunnies are part of an opening that’s been years in the making. The “Intrude” bunnies are strewn across the park’s large elliptical lawn, which is the centerpiece and primary gathering spot of the $13 million project.
The museum’s 164 acre campus – one of the largest art-museum parcels in the world – has long been a popular spot, attracting not only art lovers but families, dog walkers, runners and bicyclists who take advantage of its wide lawns, trails and connection to the Capital Area Greenway.
The museum’s latest project re-purposes 17 acres of what used to be Polk Youth Prison, fronting Blue Ridge Road and to the west of the museum’s two buildings and outdoor amphitheater. Those 17 acres are now a series of interconnected gardens, groves, promenade and planting beds with 187,000 plants. All that remains of the old prison is the Polk smokestack, which looms as a landmark to the south.
The lawn is envisioned as a blank canvas that can be used for a variety of gatherings. For the duration of the “Intrude” exhibit it will play host to various events such as evening “Hoppy Hours” featuring different kinds of music. Beyond temporary exhibits like “Intrude,” the park will have a mix of long-term loans like Giuseppe Penone’s sculpture “Ideas of Stone-Elm” (a stark tree trunk holding up a 3,000-pound rock) and permanent works including Hank Willis Thomas’ “Ernest and Ruth” – two benches in the shape of cartoon speech bubbles.
For the next week and a half, however, it’s all about the rabbits. The “Intrude” bunnies look especially amazing at night, glowing from afar and drawing people toward the museum. The only thing that might put a crimp in their Raleigh run is stormy weather; they’ll be taken down if the winds get too high.
Parer developed “Intrude” a number of years ago for a festival in her native Australia, where rabbits are an invasive species and environmental pest. Several sets of inflatable “Intrude” rabbits travel the world and have been on display in 40-plus cities on four continents. Mexico City and Dubai are the next two cities on the itinerary after Raleigh.
“They’re beautifully easy to ship, work with and manipulate,” said Wangro. “Each installation and setup is different, and so is the emotional response. They do have a life to them; they almost feel alive. They look fantastic here from the roadway. This is such a beautiful setting.”
“Intrude” will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Nov. 6 at the N.C. Museum of Art outdoor park, 2110 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. The outdoor park’s grand opening is set for 2 p.m. on Nov. 6. Admission is free. For details, see ncartmuseum.org.