The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known more commonly as The Met is one of the world’s great museums.
The use of art in The Met’s title is loose. This is a serious museum. Sure, it has an incredible collection of Van Goghs, rooms of Degas, and many pieces that will have you thinking – wow, I didn’t even know that was in America! But this place is palatial. Within its walls, there are whole rooms from Baroque mansions and even an Egyptian temple.
Situated on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, it is one of the standouts of the Museum Mile, skirting the boundaries of Central Park. It has been a fixture in New York’s culture since 1872, with the collection growing every year. To this end, the museum has expanded to include The Cloisters, housing many pieces from the medieval and renaissance eras (as well as four completely rebuilt cloisters from France and Spain) and The Met Breuer, which focuses on modern and contemporary art.
The American Wing
This definitive collection traces the development of American art over the last 300 years. It centers on an ornate sculpture courtyard with adjoining cafeteria.
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Unlike modern Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, the collection here preserves the best works of ancient Sumerian, Hittite, Assyrian and Babylonian art and artifacts. There are cuneiform tablets, bronze age relics and a set of giant guardian figures, Iamassu, not unlike the ones found in the British Museum.
Arms and Armor
For kids and fans of medieval and renaissance history (and beyond), this gallery tracks the evolution of war and weaponry from a time when it was man against man (with the occasional armor-clad horse). The sheer scale and attention to detail in the finishing and engraving of some of the suits is a sight to behold, though one can only imagine how hard it would have been to walk in them, let alone fight a battle. Henry VIII’s armor shows just how big the infamous king became in his later years.
Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
It was Nelson A. Rockefeller’s bequest of over 3,000 pieces upon his death in 1969 that make up the core of this collection, which includes aboriginal rock paintings from Australia and painted poles from New Guinea.
Boasting 30,000 pieces and a completely reconstructed Ming Dynasty garden court, this section of the museum traces the engraving, painting, and design of Tibet, Mongolia, China, and Japan.
The Egyptian Collection
Outside of Cairo, the British and possibly the Berlin Museum, The Met’s Egyptian collection is world-class, containing an array of mummies from early dynasties up until the Roman age, stone sarcophaguses, gold amulets and ornate jewels and brooches containing precious stones and stone tablets and papyrus with ancient writings. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a full reconstruction of the Temple of Dendur, originally relocated to make way for the construction of the Aswan Dam. Back in 2014, we were lucky enough to be there for the world premiere performance of Interpol’s El Pintor, where the band played within the moated area of the temple. It was sublime.
The more time you spend in the European section of The Met, the more you’ll have your mind blown by the scale and caliber of the collection. From early Renaissance masters through Duhrer to Kandinski, Picasso, and Modigliani, the sketches, engravings, sculptures, and paintings are like a who’s who:
Brueghel’s The Harvesters, Vermeer’s Woman with a Lute, Turner’s The Grand Canal, Degas’ The Dancing Class, Renoir’s Mme. Charpentier and Her Children, Van Gogh’s Self Portrait in Straw Hat, Matisse’s Young Sailor,
Greek and Roman Collection
The Greek and Roman Gallery is an extensive collection of over 4,000 pieces. There are busts of fine Carrara marble. The key highlights are an Etruscan chariot from 583BC, known as the Monteleone Chariot, and a reconstructed bedroom from Boscoreale, a village that was buried by the same eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Islamic Art Collection
From Spain to Morocco to North Africa, this area’s ornate tapestries, parchments and tile work brings to life the eastern cultures in a way that is forgotten by most due to the constant unrest in the region.
As a fan of Medieval history, I love visiting this gallery. The collection is extensive, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The mother lode is to be found up at The Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park. That being said, there’s more than enough to be mesmerized by, with the sheer artistry and craftsmanship a sight to behold.
The Musical Collection
Having been frequent visitors to The Met, we only stumbled upon the collection of musical instruments by accident. Hidden away on an upper level, there are literally millions of dollars worth of early stringed and keyboard instruments. Key standouts are original saxophones and Sousaphones, several Amati and Stradivarius violins, violas, and even cellos and early Baroque harpsichords.
The Met at Christmas
As the temperatures plummet and Christmas trees start appearing across the city, The Met comes alive with its impressive Neapolitan Christmas Creche, a collection of hundreds of baroque nativity ornaments. Set in the heart of the medieval collection, around a towering tree, there are intricate settings of angels and cherubs, shepherds, and wise men.
The Modern Art Collection
Castles within a museum
What is truly impressive beyond the scale of the collection is the Met’s range of buildings and rooms that have been deconstructed and moved within its stone walls. Lovingly reconstructed bed chambers from French chateaus, chapels (and at the Met Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park), and even churches and cloisters. It’s easy to lose yourself in here for hours, if not days.
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The Met is one of the world’s great art museums.
It is located in the Upper East Side on the Museum Mile of 5th Avenue at 82nd Street
The Met has an interesting policy for entrance fees. They offer a pay what you think entry. This isn’t widely known, with the suggested ticket price as $25 for adults and $17 for seniors.
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