ArtExhibitionsReynier Leyva Novo: Methuselah
Special Installation

Reynier Leyva Novo: Methuselah

Located in First Floor Katz Wing

Methuselah virtually reproduces a Monarch butterfly’s 6,000-mile transnational flight as an exploration of 21st-century human migration and the impending climate crisis.

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Weighing in at less than one gram each, Monarch butterflies live only two to six weeks, requiring four generations of offspring to complete their annual migration. The digital artwork Methuselah (2022) by Cuban conceptual artist Reynier Leyva Novo follows a Monarch butterfly avatar along its journey from Mexico, across the United States, and into southern Canada as part of the species’ annual reproductive cycle.

Reynier Leyva Novo, Methuselah, 2021-2022. Digital artwork. Commissioned by El Museo del Barrio with generous support from VIA Art Fund. Courtesy the artist.

Reynier Leyva Novo, Methuselah, 2021-2022. Digital artwork. Commissioned by El Museo del Barrio with generous support from VIA Art Fund. Courtesy the artist.

Methuselah refers to the fourth generation of Monarchs who are born at the northern most point of the migration pattern and live longer than the other generations. In late summer and fall, the Methuselah generation begins a two-month, 6,000-mile journey from southern Canada and the northern United States to Mexico, where they stop to hibernate in the remote oyamel fir forests. In February and March, they awaken and begin the return home, laying millions of eggs along the way before dying.


Reynier Leyva Novo, Methuselah, 2021-2022. Digital artwork. Commissioned by El Museo del Barrio with generous support from VIA Art Fund. Courtesy the artist.

Novo collaborated with butterfly experts, taxidermists, animators, computer modelers, and software designers to create the digital artwork, which draws upon data points related to actual conditions the Monarch experiences during migration, including inclement weather and rough terrain. In gallery, the mixed-reality installation is experienced via a holographic device. To eliminate economic and geographic barriers, the artwork can also be viewed on and mobile devices via a free app.

Methuselah is presented in conjunction with the major exhibition Juan Francisco Elso: Por América and complementary exhibitions Lo que es, es lo que ha sido/What It Is, Is What Has Been: Selections from the ASU Art Museum’s Cuban Art Collection and Migration Stories: Arizona Collects Cuban Art.


Installation view, Methuselah, El Museo del Barrio, 2022.


Reynier Leyva Novo (b. 1983, Havana, Cuba, and based in Houston, Texas) is one of Cuba’s leading conceptual artists. Novo’s practice challenges ideology and symbols of power, challenging notions of an individual’s ability to affect change. His multidisciplinary practice includes mining historical data and official documents, the content of which he transforms into formally minimalist and conceptually charged sculptures and immersive multimedia installations. Novo’s artwork has been presented at the Liverpool Biennial (2010), Venice Biennale (2011, 2017), Havana Biennial (2015, 2019), Shanghai Biennale (2018), Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (2019), Aichi Triennial (2019), among others. His art is collected by international museums and arts institutions such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Bronx Museum of Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; Museo de Bellas Artes de La Habana; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, among others.


Methuselah is commissioned by El Museo del Barrio through the generous support of VIA Art Fund. The project is presented in relation to the exhibition Juan Francisco Elso: Por América, which is organized by El Museo del Barrio and made possible thanks to major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Juan Francisco Elso: Por América at Phoenix Art Museum is made possible through the generosity of Partner Sponsor Sue and Bud Selig and Supporting Sponsors Men’s Arts Council, The Opatrny Family Foundation, and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Exhibition Endowment Fund, with additional support from Kimpton Hotel Palomar.


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