For years I have longed to make full use of our museum galleries’ great ceiling spaces. With the exhibition Women Hold Up Half the Sky, we not only had the chance to do something special with the Getty Gallery “sky,” as it were, but our first-ever opportunity to integrate the full play of daylight within the space into the design. The team jumped right on board with the idea and began to think of different ways we could use the ceiling not only as a visual element but as an interactive component that would add to the show’s content as well.
The Los Angeles–based architecture practice Layer was approached to create an installation that would somehow represent the sky. One major inspiration was Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree project. For Wish Tree, people are invited to write their personal wishes for peace and tie them to a tree branch. The fact that our “sky” would be mostly out of reach of visitors precluded a hands-on interaction with the artwork in the same manner as for Wish Tree. Nonetheless we wanted the installation to be more than a sculpture and provide an outlet for creative and affective responses to the exhibition’s content.
The team came up with the idea of inviting each visitor to write down a wish for girls and women around the world and have it added to a “sky of wishes.” The resulting sculpture, which would transform over time, would give visual testament to the power of collective action to effect change.
The first steps in creating the work were to determine the shapes, sizes, and colors of both the wish containers and the wish materials. It was determined early on that the sky would need to be “empty” at first and fill in over time as visitors’ handwritten wishes were added.
Once a plan was conceived, it had to be tried out in the actual space.
Modifications were made based on these prototypes and a new plan was put into production.
To allow for easy adjustments, ropes were used to hold the work’s metal armature in place until all of the sections were connected.
There are four separate stations in the gallery where visitors can fill out their wishes. They can choose to keep them private and put them in a slot to be gathered later, or they can choose to hang them near the stations so that other visitors can read them (a selection of wishes is also posted online). Museum staff gathers them a couple of times a week and installs them overhead in Wish Canopy, which is what Layer’s commissioned work was ultimately named.