1870: The Metropolitan Museum of Art is established. The New York State Legislature granted the museum an Act of Incorporation on this day. The Museum, also known simply as The Met, first opened on February 20, 1872 in a building on Fifth Avenue. John Taylor Johnston’s personal art collection seeded the museum and the railroad executive served as the first president with publisher George Palmer Putnam as the founding superintendent. Eastman Johnson, an artist, and many other industrialists served as co-founders. Luigi Palma di Cesnola, a Civil War officer was the first director and he saw The Met’s holdings grow from the initial Roman sarcophagus and 174 paintings to more than the original building could hold.
The Met moved after purchasing Cesnola’s Collection of Cypriot antiquities and took up temporary quarters at the Douglas Mansion on West 14th Street. Today, America’s largest and most visited art museum is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue on the eastern edge of Central Park in Manhattan’s Museum Mile in New York City. Only three art museums in the world are larger: the Louvre, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and the National Museum of China in Beijing. The Met also has a second, much smaller location called The Cloisters in Upper Manhattan which features items from Medieval Europe.
The main museum has a permanent collection comprised of works of art from classical antiquity and ancient Egypt as well as paintings and sculptures from most of the European masters. There is an extensive collection of American and modern art as well as vast numbers of artifacts from around the world. They also own costumes and accessories, musical instruments, and antique weapons and armor from around the world. There are several notable interiors meant to transport the visitor throughout time and around the globe. Each department also maintains a library which can be accessed for research or private investigation.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is also noted for its special exhibits. These can focus on the work of a single artist when they bring in works on loan from other museums around the world. They also have had works related to specific art movements on display as well as collections of historic artifacts. The special exhibits are usually hosted inside their specific departments and run for a month at a time. These are open to the public and can bring an extra layer of understanding to the visitor. After viewing the art, one can travel to the roof and visit the garden and café located there (at least when the weather permits). It is considered to be one of the loveliest outdoor spaces in the City.
The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. – Pablo Picasso
I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. – Jackson Pollock
The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. – Michelangelo
Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
February 20, 1872: New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opens. Often called simply The Met, the museum is on the eastern edge of Central Park and is part of the “Museum Mile.” There are eleven museums on Fifth Avenue, between 110th Street and 70th Street. The Met is located at 82nd Street. It is one of the world’s largest art galleries without taking into consideration the second smaller location in Upper Manhattan – “The Cloisters” which contains medieval art. The Met’s permanent collection contains over two million works divided into nineteen curatorial departments.
The New York State Legislature granted the Metropolitan Museum of Art an Act of Incorporation on April 13, 1870. They were to establish and maintain a museum and library of art in New York City. Their secondary purpose was to encourage and develop the Study of Fine Arts as well as applications of art into everyday operations. On this day, the museum opened at 681 Fifth Avenue. John Taylor Johnston used his private art collection to seed the new museum. The railroad executive also served at The Met’s first President. Publisher George Palmer Putnam was the founding superintendent. Eastman Johnson was Co-Founder of the museum. Luigi Palma di Cesnola, a Civil War officer, was the first director and served from 1879 to 1904.
When the museum first opened, there was a Roman stone sarcophagus and 174 paintings, mostly European, on display. The next year, they purchased the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot antiquities. They also moved to the Douglas Mansion at 128 West 14th Street. The museum’s collections kept expanding and a new building was designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould. The design was already going out of style by the time the building was finished and twenty years later, it was deemed “a mistake.” Even so, it has been part of The Met ever since, with buildings going up around it and incorporating it into the design, albeit without some of the distinctive design elements.
Today, The Met measure almost ¼ mile long and has more than 2,000,000 square feet of floor space. It is more than twenty times the size of the original 1880 building. It is a group of 26 structures, most not visible from the exterior. New York City owns the museum building and contributes utilities as well as part of the cost of guardianship. The collections are owned by a private corporation of Fellows and Benefactors, made up of 1,630 people. The 2009-10 budget was $221 million or about $47 per visitor.
“A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.” – Albert Camus
“All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” – Federico Fellini
“An artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs.” – Edgard Varese
“An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” – James Whistler