For the first time in its history, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will tonight (6 June) host a performance directly inspired by, and conceived for, a particular gallery.

Shen Wei, the Chinese-born, New York-based choreographer who designed the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, created the site-specific work, which was inspired by the sculptures in the Charles Engelhard Court in the museum’s American Wing. Shen’s new work will be performed in the court at 7 pm this evening and again at 7 pm on 13 June.

Museum officials said Shen passed over the Met’s famous Egyptian Temple of Dendur, where many performances have occurred, and selected the Charles Engelhard Court, a grand, light-filled, windowed pavilion that acts as the formal entrance to the American Wing. Reopened two years ago after an extensive renovation, the court contains marble and bronze figurative works by 19th and 20th Century American sculptors like Hiram Powers, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Paul Manship.

Shen said the sculptures provided an opportunity to create “a piece celebrating the body in works of art of the past and the body in movement in the present”.

The new work will feature projections as well as electronic music by composer Daniel Burke of Illusion of Safety.

The winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, Shen creates dances that incorporate visual and storytelling elements from the theatre, Chinese opera, Eastern philosophy and traditional and contemporary visual art and sculpture.

Limor Tomer, general manager of the Metropolitan Museum’s concerts and lectures series, which was established in 1954 and today presents more than 200 events annually, said the new work “cannot exist without the particular layout of the court, and the specific works of art in it. The piece’s narrative arc is informed entirely by the statues in the court, and they are as much participants as the dancers.”

There are $30 standing tickets available for both performances, as well as $45 standing tickets for tonight’s performance that include a post-performance reception with Shen and his dancers. Seated tickets for both performances are sold out.