Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009

As we ring in the New Year tonight, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be celebrating a few monumental events in the advent of 2009 — one of which is the switch to a new Director, (more on that tomorrow) and the other is the Costume Collection's new partnership with the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Additionally, I'd like to share this 2008 in Review: People of the Year that I came across on artinfo.com, since it lists Philippe de Montebello, the outgoing Director of the Met.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Images of Mary

Tonight I took advantage of a seasonal Gallery Talk entitled "In Anticipation of Christmas: Images of Mary." We looked at works by Gerard David, Hieronymus Bosch, and Albrect Dürer. It is important to remember that when these paintings were made, virtually everyone in society was a devout believer (or at last outwardly behaved as such). So the imagery in religious paintings was widely recognized - for example, people would identify the various saints by symbols always used in their portrayal. Not only were they used as decoration for the ornate chapels where they were installed, religious paintings were also used as teaching mechanisms, since the majority of the population was illiterate.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Little Christmas Shopping

Like any self-respecting shopaholic, I'm a sucker for a sale; so, when it came time to do my Christmas shopping, I was enticed by the big sale signs at The Met Store that I pass everyday. I've frequently perused the contents of this store, with everything classy and artistic that an aficionado could covet. Today I successfully selected gifts for my closest family members that they will hopefully cherish and appreciate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lunch in the Cafeteria

Just popped in for a second to have a salad in the cafeteria. Nothing more to report, really.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?

I just watched Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? The documentary traces the experience of Teri Horton, a truck driver from California, who purchased a painting of questionable origin at a thrift store. Because of its similarity to Jackson Pollock's painting technique, Horton has sought for many years to authenticate and sell the piece against staggering odds. Though glamorous and erudite, the art world comes across as decidedly pompous and condescending to the average citizen.

Just about all of the professional art dealers and historians agreed that this painting was not a Jackson Pollock, but Horton was stubborn. She even hired a forensic analyst to authenticate paint samples from the painting compared with paint found on the floor in Pollock's studio. And perhaps most convincing of all, the analyst claims to have identified a fingerprint on the back of the canvas as Pollock's own, as compared with one found on an authentic Pollock painting. Whatever you believe, this film interestingly examines the rift between the Average Joe and the intellectual elite.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Arts of Ancient Egypt

The Egyptian Wing at the Met serves as a major cornerstone of the museum's collection. As a world-renowned institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was granted the right to excavate the tombs of ancient Egypt in the beginning of the twentieth century.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Live Music on the Balcony, Saturday Night

Today's was a typical visit without an agenda but as I stepped into the Great Hall, beautiful music filled the air. It was coming from the Balcony Café above, where a pianist and two violinists entertained diners at the restaurant, as well as all the visitors in the Great Hall's vicinity. I found a spot on a bench on the second floor across from the café, where I could look at the magnificent architecture of the building, down at the people walking in and out and the incredible flower arrangement centerpiece. I wanted nothing more than to sit and listen, so I did.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Night in Petrie Court Café

Tonight I treated myself to a glass of wine and an appetizer at Petrie Court Café, located adjacent to the European Sculpture Court. This upscale establishment was expectedly expensive, but I wasn't disappointed. It was a lovely space to enjoy a glass of Chardonnay after a long week — and the pumpkin ravioli was very tasty too!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rosenquist — My Favorite Pieces

I want to take today's post to highlight my very favorite pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection.

They hang in the stairwell between the first floor and the mezzanine at the far end of the Modern Art wing. At first glance, I was delighted by their bright colors and their strange subject matter. Then, as I took a closer look, the masterful craftsmanship and stark realism of the forms, with fully saturated hues and invisible brushstrokes, just about floored me. With all the works that reside in the Met, it may come as a surprise that two "Gift Wrapped Dolls" (#23 and #16) by James Rosenquist could capture my fancy so completely — but I never claimed to be normal.


Sadly, there isn't a wealth of information on the web about Rosenquist, though I did find this interview with db artmag. I find it fascinating to read the artist's view of their own work and of the world at large.

Also, I think it's appropriate to include here another painting by Rosenquist, "House of Fire" (1981), which was fairly recently mounted on the second floor directly above the stairwell with the dolls. Famous for his "Pop Art" collages juxtaposing brightly colored, unrelated everyday subjects, Rosenquist's work just dazzles the eye.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Calder Jewelry Opens Today

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened an exhibition showcasing jewelry crafted by American artist, Alexander Calder. Although he is known for his large-scale sculptures often in the shapes of mobiles, Calder also created almost 2,000 pieces of jewelry, some of which is now on display at the Met.

For more info, read this article from www.reuters.com.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday at MoMA


As we all know, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is closed on Mondays... so today, I visited the Museum of Modern Art instead. Just 25 blocks south of the Met, MoMA houses great masterpieces from the late 19th-century to the present day.

Tonight I had a specific mission in mind: to see the Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night exhibition on the second floor. Though I wasn't overwhelmed, I wasn't disappointed either — it's a tall order in my book to create an exhibition worthy of one of the greatest artists of all time. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Van Gogh's night paintings and, especially, the letters and sketches that accompanied them.


While Starry Night is undoubtedly the most famous, the crown-jewel of MoMA's collection for sure, the most impressive for me was Starry Night Over the Rhone, whose colors shone brightly and vibrantly just around the corner. I was elated to see a sketch for this painting, to see the planning stage up close, in person.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Met's Best Bathroom and Treasures in American Art


Maybe I'm a little strange, but I have a favorite bathroom at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. While the staff does a wonderful job keeping all of the bathrooms tidy despite the thousands of daily visitors, the very best restroom is located between the Temple of Dendur and the beginning of the American Wing. Now I can't speak for the men's room, but the ladies' is beautiful. With marble countertops and cherrywood stalls, it looks like it belongs in the Plaza Hotel... Plus, it's a little bit out of the way so it's generally not as crowded as the restroom across from the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in the Egyptian Wing.

Though I headed straight to the restroom upon arrival, it was not the sole purpose of my visit. It did, however, lead me to the art works I will discuss today. Just across the entry to the American Wing is a staircase that leads up to The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tiny Egyptian Things

I am perpetually impressed by the thousands of tiny Egyptian things in the Met's collection. I find it fascinating that archaeologists were able to uncover the tiniest objects, and even more so that the Egyptians had made such detailed tiny things. I'll let the photos speak for themselves:




Friday, December 5, 2008

Astor Court at Night

On Friday and Saturdays, the Met is open until 9pm — definitely an advantage to busy New Yorkers. Tonight I just popped in for a nice and quiet visit to the most relaxing space in the Asian Wing — the Chinese Garden, Astor Court.


A unique feature of the Asian galleries is the Astor Court, modeled on a Ming dynasty (1368-1644) scholar's courtyard in the Garden of the Master of the Fishing Nets in Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai famous for its garden architecture.

A gift of the Vincent Astor Foundation, the garden court, which opened to the public in 1981, includes an adjoining hall for the Museum's collection of Chinese hardwood furniture.

from www.metmuseum.org


Beautiful during the day, Astor Court is strikingly so at night, when its features are illuminated by the illusion of moonlight and dramatic shadows dance on the walls. The windows, each with a different geometric pattern, shine a brilliant white and the green plants glow behind them.

The trickle of a tiny waterfall fills the air with its calming sound and one cannot avoid being transported to a state outside of the frenetic existence that is New York City. Indeed, the plaque over the moongate at the entrance reads: "In Search of Quietude." I think a Friday night is the perfect time to enjoy the peace of Astor Court after a long week.



Thursday, December 4, 2008

Friends at the Met

Elena in the Modern Art wing


Today, I had the chance to play tour guide for a friend from California, who had never been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What a day! We covered a lot of ground, as you will see by the map. My friend Elena joined us about halfway through our visit — coincidentally, she was one of the people with whom I had my very first visit to the Met almost exactly a year ago.

The best thing about showing someone around is pointing out my favorite things, and discovering new spaces as I continue to do in my daily pilgrimage to the museum. We covered a lot of ground, almost every wing, but some of the highlights were Arms and Armor; The Temple of Dendur; the painting of the Palace at Versailles in the American Wing, which spans the circumference of a circular room; African and Oceanic Art, which always remind me of Dr. Seuss' characters; The Modern Art Wing, where we paused to enjoy two landscape paintings that, upon closer examination, actually have words written all over them. Then it was up the flight of stairs at the far end of the wing—where my favorite paintings of dolls wrapped in cellophane by James Rosenquist hang—to the mezzanine gallery with the most awesome Chuck Close self-portrait. Then we trekked through a Raqib Shaw special exhibition, up to the 19th-Century European Paintings wing. There we finished our day by visiting the beautiful Wisteria Dining Room from the Art Nouveau movement. It can be quite exhausting to take an all-encompassing trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art — but at the end of the day, it's well worth it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Controversy Surrounding Antique Artifacts

With the holiday and lots of work, I've regrettably missed my daily visit to the Met a few times this week. Things should calm down for me soon, and I will resume my daily trek to the Met tomorrow. For now, here is an excerpt from an Op-ed piece in the New York Times published yesterday:

...An enduring and increasingly hostile debate in the world of art and museums: Who should own the treasures of antiquity?

Up to now, the parties on either side of this dispute have stood in opposing corners with their fingers in their ears. The governments of Italy and Turkey have filed lawsuits to force the return of plundered and looted artworks. Egypt has threatened to suspend excavation permits if iconic artifacts are not repatriated. Greece has built a new museum in Athens in large part to justify its renewed demands for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain.

For the most part, the world’s great museums, like the Metropolitan, have responded only when under direct threat and, even then, they do not acknowledge wrongdoing.


Definitely an interesting debate. It goes without saying that Met lovers would hate to see the collection reduced by this controversy but, on the other hand, it is unfair and unjust to display works of art that were stolen from their native countries without any compensation or retribution for their cultural history.

I'll definitely continue following the Met in the news. For more from the New York Times, which has a beautiful Topics Page on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, follow the link.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Mixed Up Files at the Met


From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a beloved children's novel by E.L. Konigsburg. The story takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where a brother and sister go to hide after running away from home.

I read the book as a child and never forgot the excitement of a tale about two children living in a museum. When I moved to New York and revisited the Met, I knew it was time to read the book again. I could just imagine sleeping in one of the beautiful beds in a period room at the Met, or hiding in the bathroom to avoid the guards at the end of the day, or bathing in the fountain and discovering change at the bottom to use for lunches, and then there's the mystery of course — an angel sculpture possibly made by Michelangelo — that the children have made their mission to solve. Re-reading the book rekindled the magic of The Met for me, so much so that I felt compelled to give my copy to a young girl in the park one day.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has even published a "Museum Kids" brochure about the book.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Destination Met


On a cloudy chilly day with little time to spare on my break from work, I visited the museum for a quick look at the happenings of the day. I had forgotten that today is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but was quickly reminded by the crowd bustling about the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Surely the Met is a must-see for anyone visiting New York (it's on every "Things to do in New York" list — and rightly so). The swarms of visitors come from all walks of life, from dozens of countries; and they speak many different languages — in fact, the Met offers tours in Spanish, French, Italian, Portugese, German, Russian, Korean and Japanese.

The more than three million works of art that reside in the Met are cultural artifacts created all over the world throughout the history of civilization; and the museum's visitors are the progeny of generations of ancestors interconnected in the collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's astonishing, really.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

And now for a nice little Thanksgiving surprise: just the other day, I saw a wild turkey in Central Park on my way home from the museum!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is closed today, so not much to write. Perhaps a little background story: I can honestly say that the Met was actually one of the reasons I decided to move to New York City. I figured that if I ever got bored or lonely, I could always visit my favorite works by every great artist that ever lived. I was lucky enough to find a place just on the other side of the park, where I could easily walk or ride the bus to my favorite place in the world. Every time I visited the museum, I'd say "I could definitely live here!' and one day the idea occurred to me that I could go to the Met everyday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Art of Dress

Since the Costume Institute does not currently have an exhibition at the Met, it has instead created a tour called The Art of Dress, which highlights the clothing worn in paintings by the great masters.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Christmas Tree and the Creche

The Christmas tree and Neapolitan Creche were unveiled today in the Medieval Art wing. With the eighteenth-century Spanish choir screen as its backdrop, the tree stands proudly, adorned with tiny electric candles and dozens of angels in colorful flowing robes. Surrounding the tree is a miniature scene depicting every detail of the Nativity story, including the Three Kings (or Wise Men), all the choirs of angels, shepherds, animals, even an Indian prince!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday and Sesame Street

This might be the greatest discovery since I started this project: a 1983 Sesame Street video that takes place at the Met! Below is the first of eight parts from youtube. Click here to see the rest of the segments.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mucha

In the spirit of spontaneity (on which this blog has been based so far), I decided to visit a gorgeous Art Nouveau poster that a friend mentioned to me yesterday. Located just outside the beautiful Wisteria Library, Maude Adams as Joan of Arc, by Alphonse Mucha stands out stylistically in the 19th- and 20th-Century European Paintings gallery. The movement spanned the gamut of creative and decorative arts including architecture, furniture design, interior decoration, graphic design and fine arts. Coincidentally, the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany (from yesterday's post) is also considered to be of the Art Nouveau style.


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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Louis Comfort Tiffany

The other day, while I was wandering through the American Wing, I briefly skimmed the Tiffany room and vowed to return soon. So today, with very little time to spare, I headed straight for the little space at very end of the wing that is currently open where the museum's Louis Comfort Tiffany collection is held.

I focused on this gorgeous glass goblets (how's that for alliteration!), because they were lined up so prettily. I will return to Tiffany I know, but for now, just the photo:

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Magritte's Birthday


Today is Belgian Surrealist painter René Magritte's birthday (thank you, Google). Most famous for his painting Son of Man, seen above (but unfortunately not located at the Met), Magritte joined contemporaries like Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Max Ernst and Man Ray in depicting the subconcious and other psychopoetic subject matter. Surrealism first emerged as an intellectual and political movement influenced by the breakthrough ideas of the time; namely, psychological theories and dream studies of Sigmund Freud and the political ideas of Karl Marx.

I decided to celebrate by visiting The Eternally Obvious, the only Magritte painting currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It hangs in a room with colorful, surrealist paintings by Miró, Dalí, Braque and Picasso, and it stands out because of its more "realistic" style. The figure is painted accurately, segmented in gold frames and arranged on what would approximately be the correct place on the body. Not only does it stand out in with its style, but also because it is perhaps one of the most provocative works in the Modern Art collection (a tall order). I overheard two girls say, "That's interesting/That's disgusting! That's not even...," her voice trailing off. Perhaps it was the pubic hair placed at eye level that repulsed her. Anyway, it was then that I decided to sit and observe other people looking at it. In the fifteen or so minutes I sat there, the painting caught several people's attention, provoking smiles from some, scoffs from others. Some didn't want to look but I caught them do a double-take, while others stopped to read the caption. A school group came through and two boys about eight years old giggled as they looked up at it and said, "Is that hair? Oh my god!" Below is a slideshow of a few observers.



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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just Reading and Wandering

Exhausted from a late night and a morning of catch-up, I packed my book for today's visit so I could relax at the Met. I began in the Sackler Wing at the Temple of Dendur, the grandest space in the museum, where I sat reading by the natural light of the windows. When I grew restless, I wandered through the American Wing and there I saw this library table that originally resided in William Henry Vanderbilt's Fifth Avenue mansion:


Wandering and people watching became my mission for a while, and after visiting the lavish interiors of the European Decorative Arts gallery, I came across this man in Petrie Court:
I intend to spend a few hours sketching in one of the galleries one of these days...

After checking out the Petrie Court Cafe's menu and walking through more European Decorative Arts, I ended up at the far end of the Greek and Roman Sculpture gallery where I again sat down and cracked open my book. A leisurely day, but very pleasant — I really could live here.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

Today I took the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism tour. I have always loved Impressionism — the works of Van Gogh and Monet were most aesthetically pleasing to me, and Degas' ballerinas were my absolute favorite for a long time.

The tour was enlightening, as the guide focused on the structure of the paintings — a factor central to the Impressionist movement. The drift from traditional practices wasn't just in brush stroke and realism alone, but also included a shift from the triangular structure with a single, centered focal point, to a more dynamic one. Impressionists organized their compositions with converging elements giving emphasis to several places on the canvas and sometimes off.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Favorite - Modern Art

Okay, these first two pictures are not Modern Art, but I'll get to it, I promise.


I arrived at the Met a little bit early for my 3:00 Modern Art tour, so I found myself gravitating toward the Egyptian Wing — in fact, I made a beeline for the Sackler Wing and the Temple of Dendur. There I sat across from the windows, looking out at the clouds hovering over the autumn colored trees in Central Park. So relaxing.


On to the day's business: Modern Art.
We began with a portrait of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso, painted when the artist was only twenty-four. The significance of this painting is its obvious shift from realism to abstract in the subject's face. Instead of representing Stein's face as at appeared visually (of which he was perfectly capable), Picasso struggled to express her intelligent, contemplative, character through her facial features. The change in intention, from simply representing things as they look to expressing a feeling or idea, marks the beginning of the Modern Art movement.


Next, we turned directly the left to examine a painting by Henri Matisse. His use of bright, flat colors and lack of detail were revolutionary at the time, but the most interesting thing about this piece is that it is actually a painting within a painting. The subject is Matisse's studio, and the dancers are actually part of a mural that was leaning against the wall while he painted this. Notice the back leg of the stool lands inside the green field of the mural. Matisse cleverly eliminated reality with this detail.



Jackson Pollock is probably the most popularly misunderstood artist (in my experience alone, I've heard heavy criticism). Some people just glance at his work and proclaim that anyone could do that, that it's ugly, that it couldn't possibly represent anything.


But, for me, especially after this tour, Pollock's work represents everything that goes on inside the mind. Not everyone could do that and make it look the way Pollock did — otherwise the copycats would be just as famous. While I sat looking at the canvas, the paint began to vibrate, to come toward me, to move around, interacting with itself. It's one of those "had to be there moments," it was magical.


Next up: Rothko. I know by now that a highly recognized modern artist is significant for a reason, but I hadn't taken the time to find out why Rothko made the ranks. His work isn't inherently interesting or even visually pleasing, but just one explanation by our tour guide had me convinced that he earned his status. Rothko's work represents universal human emotions — he was influenced by Carl Jung, and (at least in this particular painting) his subject was man's futile and tragic quest for immortality (according to our guide). When you look at the blocks of color, the red jumps forward at you, while the white fades to the back; the yellows at the top and bottom and even the the darker left and right edges contain the color within the painting. The fact that the artist intentionally laid the color on the canvas in such a way so as to express his feelings and ideas is itself the importance of the work.




Ellsworth Kelly depicted reality, purged of detail, form and dimension. From his bird watching hobby as a youth, Kelly became interested in the way we perceive things as fragments (referring to the frame of binoculars) and as flat color (which, apparently can be done with a certain bird watching tool). He said "my paintings are fragments of the visual world without the third dimension."




This piece by Donald Judd explores the idea of self-referential minimalism. The identical boxes are the subject, referring to their subtle differences as visual contrasts. I particularly enjoyed the interplay of shadows below.



I'll end with this work by Joel Shapiro. Its construction teeters at the edge of impossibility, as it appears off-balance. The sculpture is made of aluminum painted red, but when you look up close, it has the texture of wood. It's amazing, really, it actually shows no indication that it is not made of wood. Shapiro intended to create this contradiction to represent his fear that the organic would become robotic — that man, obsessed with machinery, would one day be replaced by his invention.

As a child of the late 20th century, it is hard for me to grasp the fact that the idea of abstract expression was INVENTED in the last century. With a graphic design background, I have grown to greatly appreciate Modern Art for the mysterious feelings and ideas hidden in the canvases, sculptures and sometimes sharks in formaldehyde solution (The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hirst is intriguing to me, I'm sure I'll visit that in a post soon). In conclusion, though it is sometimes incredibly simple, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes ugly, Modern Art is what it is because nobody thought to do it before, it carries so much meaning and intent that it is difficult not to appreciate it.

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