The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is located just off Central Park and in the summers, its rooftop garden provides quite the spot to take in some culture, some sun, and all your favorite New York smells in one setting (your mileage may vary on the final item). This year, the Met is continuing a run of seasonal installations in the rooftop garden and the newest one is pretty cool if you’re an art or film fan.
British artist Cornelia Parker has erected “Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)” on top of the Met, and yes, it looks exactly like the Bates mansion in the famous Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho, just on a rooftop overlooking Central Park.
The whole thing isn’t just a homage to Psycho, but New York City and the artist Edward Hopper. The actual installation is made of wooden siding, beams, and rafters sourced from a farm in Schoharie, New York. The pieces have been re-assembled into a 2/3rds scale facade of the house from Hitchcock’s thriller.
It’s built like a movie set, not like an actual house and the view from the back of the house looks like a mess of support structure. This accurately mirrors the actual “Psycho house” movie set that Alfred Hitchcock used to shoot his film. Although it was theatrically distributed by Paramount Pictures in 1960, the suspense director shot Psycho with his Alfred Hitchcock Presents… crew on the Universal Studios backlot.
Hitchcock was paying out of his own pocket, so the mansion exterior that only had to be seen in the background of the Bates Motel could only be viewed from two sides. Since, the set was demolished, moved and rebuilt several times, but an existing Psycho house is still kept on the Universal Studios backlot for their tram tour.
The origins of the Psycho house are a bit murky. There’s a lot of evidence that the first facade was pieced together with stock pieces used to build existing sets on Universal Studios Colonial Street backlot area. The so called “Harvey House” (because it was used in the 1950s Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey) had an extra tower section, which would go on to become one of the Psycho house’s most defining features.
And here’s the original Psycho set:
For this art piece, however, it’s more likely that this house was chosen for its allusion to American artist Edward Hopper. You know him, he painted this painting (it’s called “Nighthawks”):
Hooper was known for painting urban and rural landscapes. Even though the actual assembly of the Psycho house used pieces from the Universal backlot, the inspiration for how to slam the pieces together came from one of Cooper’s paintings, 1925’s “The House by the Railroad.”
If you really want to be freaked out by how far back this house goes, Hooper’s painting was based on an actual house that has been updated but is still standing in Haverstraw, New York.
The artist behind this “PsychoBarn,” Cornelia Parker, says the color of the Bates replica and the way the Hitchcock set has been relocated reminded her of European settlers who would dismantle barns and immigrate with them. Hooper used to paint those structures as well. “I’ve always loved Edward Hopper’s paintings of red barns,” Parker said at the opening for “Transitional Object,” “Hopper, Hitchcock, and the red barns. It’s really a combination of all three.”