The Met is my second home.
As I said, I’ve been over 1,200 times since August 1, 2002. I’ve got the buttons, and now the stickers to prove it. No I don’t work there and never have. No, I don’t know anyone personally who does. I’m simply passionate about exploring art history. I love art, and great Museums.
Still, why go there so often? Don’t you get bored looking at the same stuff over and over?
Ha! First, I’ve NEVER been bored at The Met (i.e. TM). With over 2 million objects in their collection and so many shows going on at any given time, it’s impossible to run out of things to see. In fact, every time I turn a corner and see a part of the building looming in front of me, I still get a chill up my spine. Over 6 million people visited it in 2014, even subtracting me from the total. Still, when I speak to people who don’t go, the spoken or unspoken question is-
Do you realize what this place is?
It’s very possibly the greatest repository of art and art professionals in the entire world. Yes, art AND art professionals. It wouldn’t be what it is without both. (Disclaimer- I’m not going to get into the politics or issues about how the collection was formed here. I’m simply speaking about The Met as it is and as I experience it.) Other Museums may have collections “stronger” in certain artists or periods (I hate comparative terms when it comes to the Arts), but no Museum covers the entire history of man’s creativity across all the world’s cultures in the depth that The Met does.
About that staff, here’s one example of what I mean…In February, 2012 I took an all night flight to London so I could see the last day of the what was called “one of the exhibitions of the century” by Roy Strong in the London Telegraph, “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” at the National Gallery. The show “was the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings ever held,” according to the National Gallery’s site, and was a huge success by any measure. Being in the same room as both versions of the “Virgin of the Rocks”, being shown together for the first time(!!!)….What could I possibly say about it? It so happens that the month before my trip, Met Director Thomas Campbell, announced that the curator of that show, a gentleman named Luke Syson, was leaving the National Gallery, where he was the Curator of Italian Paintings before 1500 and Head of Research, to join The Met as the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Curator in Charge of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, a department Mr. Campbell previously headed for 5 years. He had just mounted an “exhibition of the century,” yet leaves before it closes to work at The Met. Wow. To me, this is only one example of the extraordinary assemblage of talent working at, and for, 1000 Fifth Avenue. 1
Most times I go to TM without a plan. I try and see the Special Exhibitions, including those that I know nothing about, before they close (close as in they end for good). Grabbing a copy of the “On View” list at the admission counter, the first thing I check- “What’s closing soonest?” I don’t think people know how many Special Exhibitions are going on at TM at any one time. I’ve counted 25 at times (what other Museum matches that?), and some of them are not even listed either on the web site, metmuseum.org, or on “On View.” The only way you can know about them is to actually stumble upon them. As I speak there is, what I’m calling, a “Mini- Mozart Tribute” going on in an enclave in the Prints & Drawings gallery that’s not mentioned anywhere and would be a long remembered highlight for any Mozart fan. Where else have you ever seen a portrait done from life in 1763-4 of the 7 year old Wolfgang Amadeus? It dropped my jaw. The text under the image lists Wolfgang, who’s seated at the keyboard, AFTER his father, AND his sister…as a composer! Here is it- look at how far his feet are off the floor…
Going to the shows, I’ve discovered artists I had never heard of who are now among my favorites. I’ve learned much much more about artists I already knew and loved, and discovered whole worlds of art from around the world and throughout human history.
Oh, and if you ever run out of Special Ex’s to see? There’s always the permanent collection, which as I said, now numbers over 2,000,000 items.
Getting an idea yet of why I’m never bored going there?
So, what’s come from those 1,200 visits? The main lesson I’ve learned through all of this is that Great Art is Great Art. Great painting exists in Ancient Egypt as it did in the Renaissance, the 16,17,18,1900’s, right up to today. I’ve also come to feel, personally, that no artist is “greater” than another. No work of art is “greater” than another- comparing artists, or art works, to each other is pointless. (Much more on this in an upcoming post). This is one reason great artists have always looked to, and been influenced by, what has come before. It’s the same in music, literature, film…all the arts.
Artists have been “standing on the shoulders of giants” for a long time.
I don’t compare Rembrandt to Michelangelo- you wouldn’t have one without the other. Well, Rembrandt would have existed, but he probably would have created work that was a bit different than he did. How different? that would depend on his influences and their influences. You wouldn’t have Van Gogh without Rembrandt. And so on and so on…Even Michelangelo, “El Divino,” possibly the most sublimely talented artist who ever lived, studied the Ancient Greeks and Romans, as did others in his time, hence the term “Renaissance,” the rebirth of what had been known in Ancient times, and forgotten.
That is “The Key.”
For me, that is The Met’s ultimate lesson- Art is Art (IF it’s good enough to get in the front door!). There is no distinction to be made for period, style, medium, culture, or anything else.
You walk in the door and you are face to face with some of the greatest achievement of human kind. You can go in any direction you want- right, to Ancient Egypt, Left to Ancient Greek and Roman, straight ahead up the great staircase to European Paintings, and so on…all 4 City blocks worth of it. Lesson #2- Wear comfortable shoes. Better yet? Go back often.
This will be an ongoing series and in it I will try and share some of what I’ve seen at TM, now and in the past. I’m blessed to live where I do. Blessed to live in the heart of Manhattan- NYC, NY. A big part of the reason I feel so blessed is because of the culture at hand. Exploring all of it is impossible for any one person. Even seeing EVERYTHING at TM is impossible.
That’s why I say- Bury me at The Met. Face up.
Soundtrack for this post- J.S. Bach “Goldberg Variations” performed by Glenn Gould, 1981 (aka. “The Second Goulbergs”), CBS Records, [amazon text=Amazon&asin=B0000025PM], one of THE most sublime documents of recorded music ever, as far as I know.
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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com
- To read about some of the others, I recommend “Museum: Behind the Scenes At The Metropolitan Museum of Art” by Danny Danziger. ↩