Saturday, May 23, 2009
The New American Wing
I don't usually write about The Metropolitan Museum of Art to avoid any potential conflict of interest as an employee there, but at times I will make an exception. After two years of major construction, the Charles Engelhard Court and the period rooms of the American Wing Galleries have reopened this week. The wait has been worth it. The courtyard looks spectacular. The major highlight is that many pieces of American sculpture are now be displayed in a way that one can walk around them, as figures in the round should be displayed. Natural lighting from the wall of windows brilliantly illuminates the sculpture and the space brilliantly. The period rooms are fascinating and arranged so that you walk through time from the 1600s into the early 1900s. There are also now computerized information kiosk screens in many galleries that allow you to press on objects so you can learn more about them. All in all, it's a spectacular repositioning of American material culture in a way that's user friendly and feels very 21st century, yet preserves the historicity of the objects and environment. Here is a link to the museum's webpage about the galleries and period rooms. Here's a link to a review and a slideshow of images from The New York Times. The museum's YouTube page has a few videos on it, and I've embedded two of them here. The first one is of director Thomas P. Campbell and curator Morrison H. Heckscher discussing some of the sculpture and the new space. The second is the ribbon cutting ceremony with First Lady Michelle Obama, which was held this past Monday, May 18, 2009. (Heightened security restricted most staff from attending, but I was at a workshop at Yale that day anyway.) This reopening of the American Wing Galleries is the second phase in a three-part renovation. The first part opened in 2007, and the last part (the main painting and sculpture galleries) will reopen in 2011.