40-pane stained glass window in background, 2 upright sculptures in foreground.
Raúl de Nieves' "Communidades Visibiles: The Materiality of Migration" installation at Albright-Knox Northland in 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Company Gallery, New York.

The Baltimore Museum of Art has named Raúl de Nieves as the second artist to receive the Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker Biennial Commission.

Established in 2018, the commission aims to “foster creation of new works by international contemporary artists, cultivate aspiring curators from underrepresented backgrounds through a parallel fellowship, and activate the BMA’s two-floor East Lobby with publicly accessible art,” according to the press release announcing the commission. The ultimate goal is to improve diversity in the museum field.

According to de Nieves’ CV, he is a multimedia artist, performer, and musician, “whose wide-ranging practice investigates notions of beauty and transformation.” He was born in Michoacán, Mexico, and “visual symbolism draws on both classical Catholic and Mexican vernacular motifs to create his own unique mythology.” He’s had solo exhibitions in Boston; Miami; and Savannah, Georgia, and he has participated in group exhibitions at The Highline, MoMA PS1, the 2017 Whitney Biennial, K11 Foundation, among many others.

Raúl de Nieves in his studio. Photo by Ambera Wellman.
Raúl de Nieves in his studio. Photo by Ambera Wellman.

His new work for the BMA will explore “metamorphosis in the natural world through a 27-pane faux stained-glass window, a multi-tiered chandelier, light box installations, and opulently decorated figurative sculptures. Together, these vibrant works will immerse audiences in de Nieves’ distinctive visual language, which draws on Mexican craft traditions, costumes and adornment, religious iconography, mythology, and folktales.”

Asma Naeem, the BMA’s Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director, is excited to see de Nieves’ vision take shape with help from the Biennial Commission.

“As the first named public art commission for a U.S. museum, the Meyerhoff-Becker Biennial Commission supports the BMA’s vision to engage our community with the work of pathbreaking artists and to offer points of creative connection across our public spaces,” Naeem said in a statement. “During Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure—the inaugural commission—we saw firsthand how her redesign of the East Lobby captivated audiences and transformed the space into a place of gathering. We are delighted to now have the opportunity to present Raúl de Nieves’ evocative work, which embraces a range of artistic and cultural traditions and speaks powerfully to the experience of change.”

The BMA’s East Lobby will be transformed by de Nieves’ installation with “dazzling new and existing works inspired by themes of emergence and becoming.” There will be a 27-pane faux stained-glass window evoking the migratory patterns of Monarch butterflies across the United States and Mexico. There will also be a Crested Caracara falcon who de Nieves said came to him in a dream. The artist also plans to include Brood X (Great Eastern Brood) cicadas and other “symbolic imagery that reflects wild transformation.”

de Nieves will create a multi-tiered chandelier depicting a beaded figure encased in a cocoon awaiting its future flight, and “lavishly adorned bead-encrusted seated figures designed for direct visitor interaction will also be placed on benches of both levels of the East Lobby.” The museum plans to host multiple community events to inspire interaction with and education about the art created by de Nieves.

The installation will be on view Nov. 19, 2023, through May 2025.