Friday, May 17, 2013

An Afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum

Yesterday, on a warm, clear New York afternoon, we hopped over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a whirlwind tour.

The Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian wing always seems to be closed when I visit this museum, and Thursday was no exception as the glass-enclosed atrium was being set up for a huge, fancy dinner event that evening. "Look, another party we're not invited to," I told my friend Jay.

A crew chief walking by said, "You're welcome to work it if you want," since there seemed to be a few no-shows, and I was half tempted to take him up on the offer. Instead, we wandered into a small set of galleries dedicated to American paintings from the first half of the 20th century, including the Edward Hopper canvas above.

The spirit of my friend Patrick Vaz seemed to be hovering over the afternoon, as there was a Georgia O'Keefe sun-bleached bone painting...

...hung next to large panels above by Florine Stettheimer, the eccentric New York artist who designed the original cellophane sets for the Virgil Thomson/Gertrude Stein opera, Four Saints in Three Acts.

Picasso's early portrait of Gertrude herself was on the second floor, surrounded by an amazing assortment of iconic European paintings such as the Van Gogh below that are part of the museum's permanent collection.

Next to a silly, claustrophobic exhibition devoted to Punk Fashion, there was an extraordinary special exhibit of French Impressionist paintings from museums all over the world, focusing on depictions of what people wore. There was added attraction of displays in the middle of each gallery of actual clothing from the period, in a few cases echoing the exact dresses and suits that were being depicted on the walls. This sounds like it could have been one of socialite Dede Wilsey's Expensive Paintings and Fancy Frocks exhibits that keep popping up at the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums, but instead the effect was scholarly, fascinating, and transported one into late 19th Century France in a surprisingly powerful way. Plus, there were about a dozen huge Manet paintings among all the Degas and Renoir and Tissot works that I had never seen before, and the exhibit was surprisingly uncrowded so you could easily stand right in front of everything.

Unlike San Francisco museums, the security guards were helpful and unobtrusive, and also allowed artists to sketch and paint within the galleries themselves. The place almost made me want to move to New York.


nancy namaste said...

Oh. My. God. I am SOOOOO jealous. What a fantastic bunch of exhibits. I read about them but you make them all come alive. Any bets as to whether the new director of the FAMSF can curb The Wilsey?

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Nancy: I am so happy that I have incited envy, and that you got the Dede joke.

And nothing's going to curb The Wilsey except The Grim Reaper, a quality she shares with Willie Brown, Jr., one of her fellow provincial villains.

Hattie said...

Love the Met!

Axel Feldheim said...

A pity that the Met's Temple of Dendur seems to enjoy denying you a visit. Even on my shortest visits to NYC, I go to see it. I'd like to say I'm completely envious of your NY visit as well, but it wouldn't sound convincing, seeing as I'm on the Big Island of Hawaii this weekend attending a wedding.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Axel: I noticed through our mutual Facebook friends that you were a Special Guest at a Special Event. See you at the belated reception. And I'll fix "Dendur." I'm not sure where I got "Endor" from, probably a sci-fi movie.