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Posts Tagged ‘The Metropolitan Museum’

Civilization Was a Crust

June 22, 2015 | by

Konigsburg Book Cover

From the cover of Frankweiler.

Long before museums were pandering to callow visitors bearing selfie sticks, they were trying to attract young people the old-fashioned way. Any big collection worth its salt has had some sort of children’s guide for decades now: museums encourage kids to look for dogs and cats in Dutch tavern scenes, giving them Bingo-style checklists, colorful maps, and bits of trivia. (Fact: pointillist paintings are made up of lots of little dots.)

The Met has always had an especially good kids’ program, and one indication of this is how enthusiastically—and diplomatically—they embrace the classic E. L. Konigsburg novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. For the uninitiated, though I suspect there are few of you: this book chronicles the exploits of the Kincaid siblings, who run away and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum. There, they sleep in a sixteenth-century bed, bathe (and fish for coins) in a fountain, and, into the bargain, solve an art-world mystery. Read More »

Don’t Hide Your Shame

April 6, 2015 | by

Photo: Steve Mays

You can learn a lot about modern mores and attitudes toward sexuality just by hanging out in the lobby of the Time Warner Center, the upscale mall at New York’s Columbus Circle. Watch how many passersby touch the tiny penis of Adam, the twelve-foot Botero sculpture who, with his distaff counterpart, greets visiting shoppers. Of course they touch it, and grab it, until it’s as golden as Saint Peter’s foot; it’s human instinct. Periodically the management needs to reapply the patina

Not long ago, I was at the Metropolitan Museum, walking behind a family. We came upon a naked kouros. While her parents were talking, a little girl of maybe three extended a small arm toward the statue’s penis, a look almost of hypnosis on her face. Her hand moved slowly, inexorably, and then—she grasped it. At that point her mother noticed and batted her hand away from the antiquity. “Stop that,” she said. Read More »

Making the Mummies Dance

February 20, 2015 | by


Photo: Ralph Hockens, via Flickr

In honor of the Metropolitan Museum’s birthday, I’d like to suggest a fun weekend read: Thomas Hoving’s Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of ArtHoving, who died in 2009, became the Met’s director in 1967, and in his decade-long tenure he made the museum the world-class institution (and moneymaker) it is today, influencing the whole industry in the process. It was Hoving who created the Fifth Avenue plaza, the set of shallow steps that lead up to the museum’s doors, and the big banners that announce exhibitions. He added gift shops and splashy special exhibitions, courted donors like crazy, and expanded the physical space into Central Park—facing opposition all the way.

Hoving’s biggest innovation, though, was his approach to acquisition: rather than build up a deep, conservative collection of small pieces, he decided to splurge on big-ticket masterpieces from all over the world. As a result, the Met is now home to such pieces as Velázquez’s Portrait of Juan de Pareja and the Temple of Dendur, and since his time, directors have followed this model. Read More »

Books from the Met, Unsorted

May 21, 2014 | by

A Stallian, Habiballah of Sava, 1601-6

Habiballah of Sava, A Stallion, 1601-6

A Prospect of the City of London, Westminster and St James Park, Johannes Kip, 1710

Johannes Kip, from A Prospect of the City of London, Westminster and St. James Park, 1710

Camera Work, No. 14

Alfred Stieglitz, Camera Work, No. 14, 1906

Alphone J Lie'bert Barracks Post, Place de la Bastille Canal Tunnel and July Column, 1871

Alphonse J. Liébert, Barracks Post, Place de la Bastille; Canal Tunnel and July Column, 1871

bauhaus archive Gertrud Preiswerk

Gertrud Preiswerk, from the Bauhaus Archive

La Caricature Charles Philipon 1830-35

From La Caricature, a journal founded by Charles Philipon, 1830-35


Fishes, Seki Shūkō, from the Meiji period (1868–1912)

Le Jardin des Supplices Octave-Henri-Marie Mirbeau, 1902

Le Jardin des Supplices, Octave-Henri-Marie Mirbeau, 1902

Manuscript Illumination with the Visitation in an Initial D from a Choir Book late 19th c

Manuscript Illumination with the Visitation in an Initial D, from a choir book, late nineteenth century

The Singer of Amun Nany's Funerary Papyrus

The Singer of Amun Nany’s Funerary Papyrus, c. 1050 BC

Two Lovers in a Landscape, 17th c, Iranian

Artist unknown, Two Lovers in a Landscape, seventeenth century, Iranian

Yesterday, the Met released nearly four-hundred thousand images—394,253, if you’re counting—into the public domain. Verily this is a horn of digital plenty, and the museum has made it easy, even fun, to peruse: users can sort the images by artist, maker, culture, method, material, geographical location, date, era, or department. To give you a sense of the collection’s scope, I sorted it, not especially imaginatively, to show only books, which left me with an unwieldy 2,701 results—and then I dove in. Above are a few of the more striking images I found, all of them deeply miscellaneous.

There’s something enjoyable in a stochastic approach to browsing, though you’d be right to call it dilettantish. The pieces I found have nothing in common—no cultural background, no thematic unity, no philosophy or aesthetic, no chronology, not even a shared mode of production—except that they all come from books, and they were all created by, you know, the people of Earth. Imagine wandering a library in complete disarray, with no organizing principle and no particular ambition: all the context disappears, along with most notions of the cumulative, but it’s hard not to come away feeling humbled by the vastness of artistic accomplishment. If this is a cheap kind of awe, it doesn’t feel that way; a few minutes of randomized images did wonders for my sense of humanism, and I saw only an infinitesimal fraction of the collection.

You can peruse the Met’s online collection here, as purposely or as arbitrarily as you’d like. Bookmark it and return whenever you’re feeling misanthropic.


Staff Picks: Cecil Beaton in the City, ‘Threats’

March 9, 2012 | by

Andrea del Castagno, Portrait of a Man, ca. 1450–57, tempera on panel. Courtesy the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

If you get the chance, check out “Cecil Beaton: The New York Years,” which has extended its run at the Museum of the City of New York. It’s a record of the artist, designer, photographer, and general man-about-town’s relationship with the city in pictures and words, and both the duration of Beaton’s career and the scope of his creativity are something to behold. —Sadie Stein

On the recommendation of our art editor, Charlotte Strick, I’ve started reading Amelia Gray’s debut novel, Threatsthe nifty cover of which Charlotte designed, so perhaps she’s biased. But so far, it’s with good cause: the narrative is subversive and impressionistic, evidentiary and eccentric. It reminds me occasionally of Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, another deeply imaginative book and one that, in the spirit of this post, I'd wholly recommend. —Nicole Rudick

It is, as Andrew Butterfield says in The New York Review of Books, a show “of staggering beauty and revelatory importance” and “a landmark exhibition,” and it is also your last chance to see it this week. I spent last Sunday strolling through the “The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I can’t imagine a more colorful or vibrant way to spend the weekend. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I recently discovered Literature Map, an addicting bit of artificial intelligence that plots writers by similarity. Watch your favorite authors drift about in a blue void like awkward, disembodied party-goers! A Marauder's Map for the literary. (Also good for finding new reads.) —Allison Bulger

I visited the Whitney Biennial last week and caught Sarah Michelson’s disciplined performance of Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer,” a piece about movement, repetition, and the relationships formed in dance. Michelson's residency ends March 11 and it’s a spectacle not to be missed. —Elizabeth Nelson

A screener of Lena Dunham’s Girls made its way around the office a few weeks ago. It contained only three episodes, but I couldn’t get enough. —D.F.M.