The country’s most important art center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is located a mere 45 minutes away from my home. Every year, before Covid19, the Met received around seven million tourists; people would travel from across the globe to visit the big apple and the Met.
You’d think that living so close to the museum, I’d take advantage of this temple of art, culture, and history and would be, or should be a frequent visitor. Going to the Met didn’t necessarily mean absorbing it all. Always a crowded public space, we couldn’t get close to the paintings and art we wanted to, and my children used to get bored to the bones among the infinite crowd.
After five long months since the pandemic hit, the museum is welcoming visitors back. To support New York and visit the city after many months, we decided to go back to the Met.
This time around, because of Covid19, visiting the Met was a whole different ball game. Exploring 5000 years of history in what seemed to be an almost empty museum gave us time to absorb, learn, and enjoy more than ever.
The Met is operating at 25% capacity, which of course I understand business-wise doesn’t make for a profitable venture. But from the visitor side, it gave me and my family a more peaceful visit and the chance to soak up a lot of fascinating material.
Like most public spaces, we got a temperature check and all visitors must be 6-feet apart.
We bought our tickets in advance on the web site and redeemed them on-site (although you can still buy the ticket there). We downloaded the audio guide and simply took our time to learn it all. My children, who at times before showed little patience for Van Gogh conversations, were a lot more open-minded and more focused than past visits. Is it because the museum was less crowded or because my children are a little older to appreciate art? It’s hard to tell, but whatever the answer is, it’s working.
“It’s all about the teachings of Buddhism in this huge mural” we learned about “Paradise of Maitreya” by Chinese artist Zhu Haogu, the first painting on our visit.
We continued to a gallery nearby and learned about “Pentimento”, a technique used by artists to “remove” an image from the painting of “Esther Before Ahasuerus” by Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi. “In this painting, the intention was to create a bigger tension between the king and the queen”, featured on this priceless work.
At a time when technology has invaded the biggest part of our lives, going back in time remains one of the most interesting trips for the mind, I realized while enjoying the visit.
“The Harvesters” (1565) was pained from a top angle as if the artist Pieter Bruegel The Elder (the Netherlands, 1525-1569) was positioned on a higher ground than the objects. A man standing with legs apart forms a triangle shape. A woman bending down forms a triangle shape. The entryway to the path is also in the shape of a triangle. Three triangle shapes “hidden” in a painting. Did Bruegel paint like this on purpose? Can this painting be 455 years old? How can it be so well conserved? Just some of the many questions raised while visiting the Met.
The weather, hazel and humid, are also references on “The Harvesters”. What was the artist feeling when he painted this art? What was in his mind? What was he trying to convey? Did he know he was creating a magnificent work of art that all the money in the world could hardly grant ownership of?
The fact that such incredible names are featured in this museum feels increasingly like an invitation to put the mask on and come again, learn more, learn all, learn everything, and learn constantly.
Claude Monet (French, 1840—1926), painted Garden At Sainte-Adresse in 1867, capturing a very specific moment, reflecting light and nature. We all know this painting; we’ve seen it a million times in photos, books, postcards, and video. We are talking here about one of the most important, most well-known paintings in the history of the world! The moment is reflected in the painting. The blue sky. The many tones of blue. He was just 27 years old when he painted this historic piece of art, second only to the Mona Lisa, perhaps?
“Art has to pacify our eyes”, we learned. Henry Matisse’s (French, 1869—1954) dreams when he painted “Nasturtiums With the Painting Dance” in which he creates subtle illusions. Are the flowers inside the vase? Or are the flowers painted outside the vase?
Art provokes thoughts, and feelings, and ongoing conversations. It highlights an ambition-stoking view, enlarging a huge exchange of ideas about art’s potential—about life’s potential! Is it not the ultimate educational program to visit the Met and appreciate art as it deserves to be appreciated?
There is all but one Brazilian artist represented at the Met: Cat and Turle by Brazilian artist Vicente do Rego Monteiro (1899—1970).
People likely visit museums since museums exist. Society has been studying painting, sculpture, and music forever. While my main work is mostly around food & media, I love to understand these other art forms, which in most cases I know nothing about, so that I can find patterns that can relate to my own world. Even during the pandemic, this was so worth it. After this experience, the Met became so close, so tangible, and so understandable. I’ll visit again soon.
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