In 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded, which has continuously received the attention of the world. It is home to a remarkable collection of artifacts and exhibitions that are nowhere else to be found. Since the museum is crowded throughout the year, we would like to help you by sharing this guide highlighting, what you should expect and what you shouldn’t miss. Let’s begin.
American, African and Oceania Art
Even though the Metropolitan Museum of Art was not interested in collecting American, African, and Oceania art in the early days and never had given much attention to it as well. However, it was until 1959, when over 3000-pieces were donated by Nelson A. Rockefeller, who was a businessman from America. As time went by, the Met had become a home to over 11,000 pieces from the Pacific Islands, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas.
Today in the collection, you will find Australian rock paintings that date back over 40,000 years in addition to memorial poles that are 15-foot tall made by the people of Asmat, New Guinea. Furthermore, you will also find rare pieces such as the one donated by Klaus Perls from Benin’s Nigerian Court.
Near Ancient Eastern Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by the end of the 19th century, had begun collecting pieces and artifacts from the Near East. It started from the collection of a few seals and cuneiform tablets and then grew to almost 7000 pieces of Near Eastern Art. The works of Sasanian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Sumerian, and Elamite cultures could be found here are a representation of the Neolithic Period, the Sasanian Empire and the Late Antiquity’s end.
The Asian Art department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art features over 35,000 pieces of Asian art. Some of the pieces have been here back when the museum was not even founded while others were presented as gifts by collectors. Today, the entire department is dedicated to Asian art, which holds over 4,000 years of history. In this department, you will find everything from paintings to metalwork that was done by every Asian civilization to date. Some of the most famous collections of the department include Indian Sculptures, Chinese Painting, and Calligraphy, Tibetan, and Nepalese works.
The collection of the Egyptian Art department of the MET mainly comprises of gifts. However, the museum started with its findings and expeditions between 1906 and 1941 to come up with its discoveries. The department features 40 galleries, solely dedicated to Egyptian art, which consists of more than 26,000 pieces from the Paleolithic and Ptolemaic era. You shall also come across 13 wooden models that were discovered in 1920 from a tomb in Southern Asasif, Western Thebes. These models are a representation of the everyday life of the Egyptians depicted through the drawings, which include gardens and boats etc. Lastly, the Temple of Dendur in the department’s center of attraction, which was handed over to the United States in 1965 after being dismantled due to rising waters.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to one of the biggest collections of Islamic art. Here you will get to see everything, from official decrees to manuscripts. The art pieces mainly reflect the rise of Islam from the Near East as well as the secular and cultural origin. The “Shanama” list, which comprises miniatures in a significant number, is also amongst the famous collections you will get to see at the museum. It was prepared during Shah Tahmasp I’s reign, which is also a very luxurious manuscript. Furthermore, the works of Sultan Muhammad and his Tabriz school associates such as ‘Tahmiras kills divs,’ ‘the Sade holiday’, and ‘Bijan and Manizhe’ amongst several others are also on display.
The Islamic art department not only houses collections that are related to religion but textiles and ceramics as well that originate from Spain, Central Asia, and North Africa. Furthermore, Mughal India’s and Iran’s miniature paintings are also the center of attraction at the museum. Lastly, calligraphy both secular and religion is well showcased in the department ranging from Suleiman the Magnificent to several manuscripts of the Quran, highlighting the different periods and changing calligraphy styles.
Collections: Collections that are non-geographically designated
Armor and Arms
The armor and arms section of the museum features some of the most popular collections in the world. On the first floor, you will see the horses that have armor and armed men in a parade position. The collection of the department ranges from pieces belonging to late Medieval European times as well as through 5th to 19th-century Japanese Pieces. Furthermore, you will also find Armor and Arms representing the Roman Empire, ancient Greece, dynastic Egypt, Oceania, and Africa, etc. belonging to the 19th and 20th centuries. In total, the department holds over 14,000 pieces, amongst which many were used and made for the princes and kings.
Institute of Costume
The costume institute was provided financial assistance by the fashion industry, which further paved the path for the merging of the institute with the MET to become the Institute of Costume in 1959. The institute today is home to accessories and costumes that number 35,000.
Initially, the costume institute was provided a permanent area/hall for its displays, but since the items displayed were quite fragile, the costume institute, therefore, now does not hold a permanent exhibition. Instead, every year it organizes two events that showcase different designers and their collections. Met Gala, which is a popular annual event, is hosted at the costume institute as well.
With time, the costume institute has hosted many famous designers across the globe, such as Chanel, Cristobal Balenciaga, Gianni Versace, and Yves Saint Laurent. The annual Benefit Met Gala, which is hosted by the editor-in-chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour, is one of the most popular events in the world, with celebrities gracing the event with their presence. In 2007 alone, the 700 tickets available for sale started from $6,500 per person.
Prints and Drawings
The prints and drawing department of the MET solely focus on western European and North American pieces that were produced post-Middle ages. It was in 1880 when Cornelius Vanderbilt II presented the very first old master drawings, which were based on 670 sheets in a single group to the museum. Back then, the department of prints and drawings was not formally established until later on. Summing up, the prints and drawings department of the MET has over 1.5 million copies, 17,000 drawings, and 12,000 books that are illustrated. Legends of history such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt, have their drawings displayed in the department as well.
Modern and Contemporary Art
The MET houses a collection of 13,000 pieces from both American and European artists. The most famous amongst them include Gertrude Stein’s portrait by Pablo Picasso, Jasper John’s White Flag, Max Beckmann’s triptych Beginning, and Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rythm. Moreover, some artists have their works displayed in remarkable depth, such as the Paul Klee collection. Furthermore, Cosmetic Tycoon Leonard Lauder in April 2013, was reported to provide $1 billion worth of collection to the museum. The museum has since kept itself involved with adding collections such as the $31.8 million Gris ‘The musician’s table”.
The collection of musical instruments at the Met is not only unique but the most comprehensive amongst other museums as well. The musical instruments have arrived from all over the world. It was 1889 when the museum had officially started with the collection, and Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown came forward with the first donation of 270 instruments. The collection, later on, grew to 3,600 pieces until the death of Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown, who had continued with the donations, which were displayed in five galleries. The collection includes a Bartolomeo Cristofori 1720 model, which is apparently the oldest living/surviving piano to date in addition to Stradivari violins and Asian instruments that were made from precious metals.
The photograph collection of the Met accounts to more than 25,000 pieces. Famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz was the first one to step ahead with donating significant collections that included Edward Steichen’s master prints and photographs by Stieglitz. Moreover, the museum further went on to acquire the works of Walker Evan, the Rubel Collection, early American and French photography, European and American post-WWI photography, and lastly, the photography of early British. Founded in 1992, the department had hosted its first permanent gallery in 1997, though due to the sensitivity and fragile nature of the pieces, not every collection was displayed.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a great place to relive history. With so much to offer, you can easily get confused amongst numerous options, and that is precisely what this article aims to prevent. As we wrap it up, we hope that this guide brings you as close to history as possible.