We all know that New York isn’t famous just for being a multicultural and high-technological city, but also for being an active cultural center which collects art from all over the world. The museums in New York, like MoMA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum or The Met, are one of the most popular destination in art-oriented traveling. Each of them hosts masterpieces from both ancient and contemporary art. One in particular, deserves more attention than the others.
The Met (that’s how it’s called informally) stands for The Metropolitan Museum of Art and represents the largest art museum in the U.S. The main building, a great palace with an entrance decorated by wide arches and columns, is located on the eastern side of Central Park, along Manhattan’s Museum Mile, and is one of the world’s biggest art galleries. That’s not the only building which composes the museum complex though: a much smaller second location, called The Cloisters, is located at Fort Tryon Park (Upper Manhattan) and contains an extensive collection of art, architecture, and artifacts from Medieval Europe. Just in 2016, the museum opened a third location, The Met Breuer Museum, at Madison Avenue, in order to offer a more complete collection of modern and contemporary art.
Looking at the main building, we immediately see that it’s not only a surprising example of architectural elements, but it’s also a very important cultural institution -as it has been recognized officially a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The original plan made by the American architect Calvert Vaux -helped by his collaborator Jacob Wrey Mould- was modified during the years following the museum construction and other parts were added later, such as the Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue facade, the Great Hall and the Grand Stairway, all designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt -then completed by his son, Richard Howland Hunt. In the following years were added the wings that completed the Fifth Avenue facade, designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White, and the glass sides, made on a plan of Roche-Dinkeloo. Than was the architect Kevin Roche to work on the expansion of the museum, designing new wings and making some renovations, including the American Wing, the Greek and Roman Court and the more recent Islamic Wing.
The Met’s permanent collection is curated by seventeen separate departments -each with a specialized staff of curators- and collects masterpieces from classical antiquity, Medieval art and some from ancient Egypt, paintings and sculptures from the most important European masters as well as including a wide collection of American and modern art. The museum is also maintaining extensive holdings of African, Asian, Oceanian, Byzantine, and Islamic art. Most of the collection are “geographically designated”, which means that different areas are reserved for artworks coming from different countries:
- Ancient Near Eastern art (cuneiform tablets and seals, works from the Sumerian, Hittite, Sasanian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Elamite cultures and some unique Bronze Age objects)
- Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, Asian art (a collection of Chinese calligraphy and painting, Indian sculptures, Nepalese and Tibetan works, artworks form Cambodia and Thailand)
- Egyptian art
- European paintings, sculpture and decorative arts
- American Wing
- Greek and Roman art (the collection concentrates on items from ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, from classic Greek black-figure and red-figure vases to carved Roman tunic pins)
- Islamic art (the collection of Islamic art is not confined to religious art, though a significant number of the objects in the Islamic collection were originally created for religious use, as there are secular items, like ceramics and textiles, from Islamic cultures ranging from Spain to North Africa to Central Asia).
Anyway, there are also some collections that are not exactly divided by geographical area, so they are mostly grouped by type of item or by donator’s name:
- Arms and Armor
- Costume Institute
- Drawings and prints
- Robert Lehman Collection
Nothing’s better that staying in a city that offers you the chance to admire such a wide range of different works, from different cultures, all collected under the same ceiling: facing Central Park, in a wonderful location, The Met is an inspiring place for artists, scholars, tourists, art and history lovers. The internal disposition of galleries and wings is very relaxing and some benches are located in every room in order to give visitors the best opportunity to enjoy paintings and sculptures with tranquility, resting some time and staring at the masterpieces.
It’s one of the most visited museums in the world: it’s not a coincidence.