Metropolitan Museum of Art
, art museum in New York City, one of the largest and most comprehensive art museums in the world. Founded in 1870 by a group of civic leaders, philanthropists, and artists, the museum has occupied its current location in New York??â„¢s Central Park since 1880. Its collections number nearly three million objects in every known artistic medium, representing cultures from every part of the world, from ancient times to the present.
Popularly known as the Met, the museum is a private institution. Its collection is housed in a building owned and maintained by New York City. Visited by more than five million people each year, the museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It is also a major educational institution, offering a wide array of programs for children and adults. In addition, scholars of archaeology and art history conduct advanced research projects at the museum.
In 1866 a group of Americans in Paris, France, gathered at a restaurant to celebrate the Fourth of July (American Independence Day). After dinner, John Jay, a prominent lawyer and grandson of eminent American jurist John Jay, gave a speech proposing that he and his compatriots create a "national institution and gallery of art." During the next four years, they convinced American civic leaders, art collectors, and philanthropists to support the project, and in 1870 the Metropolitan Museum of Art was incorporated. During the 1870s the museum was housed in two different locations in New York City, first in a building at 681 Fifth Avenue and later at 128 West 14th Street.
In 1880 the museum moved to its present location in Central Park on Fifth Avenue between 80th and 84th Streets. The first structure was designed by American architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould. Many additions have since been built around this building, but its west facade is still visible in the museum??â„¢s Robert Lehman Wing. American architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the central pavilion and the neoclassical facade on Fifth Avenue, which opened to the public in 1902. The architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White designed the north and south wings, which were completed in 1911 and 1913, respectively. Six additional wings, designed by the architectural firm of Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates, have been built since 1975 to house the museum??â„¢s growing collections, to expand gallery space, and to accommodate art conservation and educational facilities.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is divided into several curatorial departments, each responsible for acquiring, preserving, studying, and exhibiting works of art in its field. The museum obtains objects for its collections through bequests, gifts, and purchases with funds specified for acquisition. Curators evaluate works proposed for acquisition in terms of their perceived quality, importance, and rarity, as well as their overall contribution to the collection as a whole.
Works of art are preserved, cleaned, and restored (when necessary) by conservation departments specializing in one of four types of media: paintings, three-dimensional objects (such as sculptures), works on paper (such as prints), and textiles. Objects on exhibition are carefully displayed to avoid overexposure to light, dust, and other environmental hazards. Objects in storage are kept under optimum conditions appropriate to their medium, age, and state of preservation.
Only a small percentage of the museum??â„¢s permanent collection is on view at any given time. However, the museum regularly rotates its exhibits, enabling returning visitors to see a large proportion of the museum??â„¢s holdings. In addition to displaying the permanent collection, the museum mounts about 30 special exhibitions every year, accompanied by catalogues, lectures, symposia, and related activities.
The museum regularly presents guided tours for museum visitors. It also presents gallery talks, lectures, concerts, films, teacher workshops, and other educational programs. The museum publishes more than 20 catalogues, periodicals, scholarly books, and popular guides each year.
The Met has two major libraries that house reference works, exhibition and sales catalogues, books on archaeology and art history, and photographs and slides. These libraries are open to scholars, who may either visit the museum or access part of the collection online via the Internet. Scholars are regularly invited to study the collections and to present papers at symposia or through the Met??â„¢s scholarly journal, the Metropolitan Museum Journal. The museum??â„¢s Egyptian and Ancient Near East departments sponsor archaeological expeditions in the Middle East and regularly publish their findings in leading scholarly journals.
The museum, in collaboration with the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, sponsors a curatorial studies program for graduate students in art history. The Met??â„¢s education department works with New York City??â„¢s public and private schools to offer on-site and outreach programs. The museum also offers internships to high school and college students. Interns learn about museum careers by working on departmental projects, giving gallery talks, or working at the Visitor Center.
Nearly all of the Met??â„¢s curatorial and conservation departments, libraries, and most support-staff offices are located in the museum??â„¢s main building, which is 140,000 sq m (1.5 million sq ft). In addition, the museum houses a photography studio, an electronic resource center, two auditoriums, several shops, two restaurants, and a public cafeteria. The museum??â„¢s major curatorial departments organize and oversee collections of American art; ancient Near Eastern art; arms and armor; arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Asian art; costumes; drawings and prints; Egyptian art; European paintings; European sculpture and decorative arts; Greek and Roman art; Islamic art; European art in the Robert Lehman Collection; medieval art; musical instruments; photographs; and 20th-century art.
Housed in the American Wing, this vast collection includes paintings, sculpture, furniture, silverware, glass, ceramics, textiles, and 25 unique period rooms featuring art from various time periods throughout American history. Paintings include masterworks by American painters John Singleton Copley
, John Singer Sargent
, Thomas Eakins
, and Winslow Homer
. The Henry R. Luce Study Center offers visitors access to objects not on view in the galleries.
Ancient Near Eastern Art
The objects in this department range from a vast geographical area in southwest Asia and northeast Africa from around 5000 bc to around ad 600. Notable works include Assyrian reliefs from the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II at Calah (now Nimrud, Iraq), Sumerian sculpture, Anatolian ivories, Iranian bronzes, and Achaemenid and Sassanian works in silver and gold.
Arms and Armor
This department is renowned for its collection of European armor from the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) and the Renaissance
(14th century to 17th century). It also contains significant objects from North America, the Middle East, and Asia. The department exhibits various pieces of armor, edged weapons (such as spears and swords), and firearms as works of art.
Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
This department contains works of art from Africa, the Pacific islands, and pre-Columbian America. The collection expanded considerably in 1978 when the museum acquired a vast assortment of works donated by Nelson A. Rockefeller, former United States vice president. Now housed in a wing named for Rockefeller??â„¢s son, Michael C. Rockefeller, the department??â„¢s holdings are rich in pre-Columbian gold artifacts, ceramics from Peru, Dogon and Benin sculpture, and various objects from New Guinea.
The Asian Art collection contains some of the world??â„¢s finest examples of art from China, Japan, Korea, and South and Southeast Asia. The works range from around 3000 bc to the present. The collections of Chinese painting, calligraphy, and monumental Buddhist bronzes, as well as Japanese screens, lacquerwork, and prints are especially notable.
The Costume Institute
Founded in 1937, The Costume Institute is a research facility that collects, preserves, and exhibits clothing from the late 16th century to the present. The department maintains thousands of examples of costumes and accessories in storage. It also operates an extensive library. The Costume Institute holds special exhibitions three times a year to show aspects of costume history and contemporary fashion.
Drawings and Prints
The drawings collection began in 1880 with a gift from American industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt that consisted of 670 drawings by distinguished European artists. The collection is now one of the finest of its kind in the world, especially in its examples of Italian and French drawings from the 15th century through the 19th century. The print collection is especially comprehensive, rich in 15th-century German, 18th-century Italian, and 19th-century French images. The collection also contains more than 12,000 illustrated books, many architectural designs, and a famous collection of baseball cards.
Early in the 20th century the Met??â„¢s archaeological excavation program provided the museum with many fine examples of art from Egypt??â„¢s prehistoric period (before 3000 bc) to the 8th century ad. The collection is especially well endowed with art owned by Egyptian rulers during the Middle Kingdom (2040 to 1640 bc) and early New Kingdom (1550 to 1070 bc). It also has many examples of funerary art (art used in burials) from the Late Period of Egyptian history, between the 700s and 300s bc. The collection of Egyptian art is now one of the most comprehensive outside Egypt, with 36,000 objects on view, including the mastaba (mud-brick) tomb of Perneb, an Egyptian dignitary who died in 2650 bc; royal portrait sculpture from Egypt??â„¢s 12th Dynasty (1900s to 1700s bc); the Sphinx of Amenhotep III, from the 18th Dynasty (1300s bc); and the Temple of Dendur, from the early Roman period (about 15 bc).
The museum owns about 3000 paintings by distinguished European artists. The Italian, Flemish, Dutch, and French schools of painting are most strongly represented, but there are also works by Spanish and British masters. Of special significance are works by Italian painters Andrea Mantegna, Sandro Botticelli
, Agnolo Bronzino
, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
; Flemish painters Jan van Eyck
, Peter Paul Rubens
, and Sir Anthony van Dyck; Dutch painters Rembrandt
, Jan Vermeer
, and Vincent van Gogh
; Spanish painters Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez
, El Greco
, and Goya; and French painters Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet
, and Claude Oscar Monet
European Sculpture and Decorative Arts
This department of more than 60,000 works of art includes sculpture, woodwork and furniture, ceramics and glass, metalwork and jewelry, clocks and watches, scientific instruments, and tapestries and textiles. Many of the works are displayed in rooms decorated to reflect the periods in which the various objects were originally created. The department??â„¢s most notable objects were created during the Italian Renaissance and in 18th-century France. The collection also contains fine examples of Italian majolica (tin-glazed pottery), and French and German porcelain.
Greek and Roman Art
This collection represents several millennia and many civilizations. It contains numerous examples of art from the Classical period of ancient Greece, from 475 to 323 bc, and ancient Roman art dating to around ad 313. In addition, the collection features pre-Greek art from the ancient Cypriot, Minoan, and Mycenaean civilizations. Strengths of this department include ancient Greek sculpture from Cyprus, painted Greek vases, and Roman portrait busts and wall paintings. The holdings in glass and silver are among the finest in the world, and the sculpture collection from ancient Attica is the best outside Athens, Greece.
This collection contains Islamic objects from regions stretching from Spain to India, the Middle East, and Central Asia, reflecting the diversity and range of Islamic culture. Outstanding holdings include ceramics, rugs and carpets, textiles, glass and metalwork, and royal miniature paintings.
Robert Lehman Collection
The Robert Lehman Wing houses the extraordinary array of works collected by the Lehman family of American philanthropists, bankers, and art collectors. Rich in distinguished European paintings, French works of the 19th and 20th centuries, drawings, majolica (tin-glazed earthenware), Venetian glass, bronzes, furniture, enamels, and textiles, the collection is exhibited in galleries designed to reflect the ambience of the Lehman family house in New York.
Medieval Art and the Cloisters
The medieval collections are drawn from all historical phases of art in the Middle Ages: Early Christian, Byzantine, Migration, Romanesque, and Gothic. The collections contain paintings, sculpture, silver, enamels, glass, ivory carvings, jewelry, and tapestries. They are displayed both in the main building and at The Cloisters, a building in northern Manhattan incorporating elements of five medieval cloisters (places of religious seclusion).
This collection of more than 4000 musical instruments illustrates the history of music and performance. The pieces were selected for technical and social importance as well as tonal and visual beauty. Of particular importance are instruments from medieval European courts, the oldest piano still in existence, rare violins and harpsichords, non-Western instruments, and the workshop of a traditional violin-maker.
The photography department houses a collection of more than 20,000 images, including examples from the mid-1800s by such masters as English photographer William Henry Fox Talbot and French photographer Nadar. Also notable is a collection of major works by avant-garde American and European photographers covering the half century from 1895 to 1945.
Located in the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, this department includes European and American paintings, works on paper, sculpture, design, and architecture created from 1900 to the present. Works by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso
, Swiss artist Paul Klee, and examples of abstract expressionism are especially well represented. The department displays sculptures during warm months in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor roof garden.
with help of Encarta