Located off Fifth Avenue in New York's Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world's great art museums. Its collections cover a wide range of topics ranging from ancient art to contemporary art. Moreover, the collections are invariably in depth surveys containing numerous masterpieces.
The Met was founded in the second half of the 19th century at a time when New York was emerging as a world class city. A group of wealthy residents and artists felt that the City should have an art collection and gallery commensurate with that status. As a result of their efforts, the New York Legislature granted a charter for the Met in 1870.
The Met's collection originally consisted of a Roman sarcophagus and 174 paintings, mostly donated by its first president John Taylor Johnson. Under its first director, Lugi Palma di Cesnola, the collection quickly grew and has continued to grow ever since. The collection now includes some two million pieces.
At first, the new museum was housed in a building on lower Fifth Avenue. However, the Met's collection soon outgrew that building and various other locations were used. A new building was then erected for the Met on the west side of Fifth Avenue in Central Park. Designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Rey Mould, it was an example of the Victorian Gothic style.
The Vaux/Mould design was not well received and in 1902, the Met's hallmark Beaux Arts facade designed by Richard Morris Hunt was erected along Fifth Avenue.
Subsequently, numerous other changes and additions have been made to the structure. Although the Met appears to be one building it is in fact made up of more than 20 structures. As a result, the Met has more than 2 million square feet of floor space.
The museums collections cover some 5,000 years of art. While each of the collections could sustain a stand alone museum, some are particularly impressive. There are about 2,500 European paintings including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer and El Greco as well as a large number of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. The Egyptian collection not only includes ancient artifacts but also the intact Temple of Dendur. The American Wing presents a comprehensive collection of paintings and sculpture as well as 24 period rooms furnished with antiques. The Costume Institute has an international reputation.
Also, the Met is a nice place to view art. Although the building dates back to the 19th century, it has been continuously refurbished as well as expanded. The works are displayed nicely in a way that is in tune with contemporary thinking on exhibiting art. In addition, the Met has several places to have a meal and/or socialize. The bar in the Roof Garden has great views of Central Park and Manhattan.
Despite its size, the Fifth Avenue building is not large enough to display all of the Met's collection. Accordingly, the Met operates The Cloisters in the which specializes in Medeval Art. In 2014, the museum opened the Met Breuer in a building on Madison Avenue that had been the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art. It focuses on modern and contemporary art.
The Met also sponsors lectures and educational programs.
For more information, see the Met's website.
Above: Boating by Edoaurd Manet
Below: Portrait of Juan de Pareja by Diego Velasquez. (Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Common. Both images are in the public domain because these works are in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less).
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Places to see art - - New York City - - The Metropolitan Museum of Art