Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Visiting museums and attending theatre in New York City always brings home to me what a small, provincial burg San Francisco is in comparison.
A case in point is the Metropolitan Museum, situated on Fifth Avenue on the mideast side of Central Park, which doesn't intrude into the park and doesn't have a stupid parking garage. (If you need to be driven there, that's what cabs and chauffeurs are for.)
There is a "suggested donation" of $20 for entry but you can just about give them any amount you want and gain entrance.
The permanent collection consists of one famous piece of art after another...
...and best of all they are not obsessively protected by a phalanx of annoying security guards as is usually the case in San Francisco museums.
Plus, you can take flash-free photos anywhere and everywhere, except in the special, temporary exhibitions.
As in any huge museum, there's also plenty of junk, depending on your taste...
...including some colorful Jeff Koons monstrosities on the surprisingly small roof sculpture garden.
There were two special exhibits that were well worth seeing: "Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe" and "Framing a Century: Master Photographs, 1840-1940." The former was room after room of astonishing Rennaissance Italian tabletops made of various gems and hard stones that looked like proto Arts and Crafts Movement furniture, except they were over 500 years old.
The photography show consisted of about a dozen images each by thirteen iconic photographers from Gustave le Gray to Walker Evans to Man Ray, all from the museum's permanent collection. It was a perfectly manageable show, not too large and not too little. Cumulatively, it was mindblowing.
There was also a fashion exhibit of designers influenced by comic book superheroes, but it wasn't half as fun as it should have been.
The weirdest disappointment was the huge J.M.W. Turner show. I've always loved the artist's paintings in reproduction, but in person, they looked sort of awful, and I found myself agreeing with the fine "New Yorker" art critic Peter Schjeldahl who closes his essay on the show with "Turner was the Damien Hirst of his time." (Click here for more.)