There is so much to see in New York’s massive Metropolitan Museum of Art that it is hard to imagine that there’s anything that might be missing from its many collections. There are more than 400 galleries exhibiting its permanent collection of more than two million works. It sits on the eastern edge of Central Park and is one of the world’s largest art galleries. It is not possible to see everything in the Met in one day, or even two. Even a week might not be enough time to do it justice.
The best way to visit the Metropolitan Museum of New York is to pick and choose the don’t miss items, and plan to spend a little extra time enjoying lunch at the Met and shopping at one of the world’s best museum gift shops. Here are a few, and I do mean just a few, highlights that you simply shouldn’t miss.
Visit Ancient Egypt
The glass walled Gallery 131 in the Sackler Wing offers a beautiful view of Central Park, and an actual entire Egyptian temple. The Temple of Dendur was going to be lost underwater when Egypt built the Aswan Dam, so it was gifted to the United States. The temple is more than 2,000 years old, and the room dedicated to its exhibition is spectacular. A visit here also gives you a chance to re-enact that scene from the classic film When Harry Met Sally, which was filmed on location right here (“You know, I have a theory that hieroglyphics are just an ancient comic strip about a character named Sphinxy”).
Wander over to Ancient Rome
The Roman Sculpture Court is full of more body parts than you can shake a stick at. There are marble heads, bronze torsos, and marble statues of whole bodies with no arms, limestone figures with no heads, and various feet and hands. My young son loved this gallery. So did I. The ancient Roman detail on the human body is lovely, and the gallery itself is built to resemble a Roman courtyard.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has tens of thousands of works of Asian Art, representing one of the best collections outside of Asia. With pieces from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, there are so many cultures and histories on display here. My particular favourite is The Astor Court and its reception room, which are a recreation of a 17th century Ming Dynasty courtyard. The detail that went into these galleries is unparalleled. The entire court was built using only traditional Chinese tools, including an 18th century kiln used to fire the tiles. The rock garden is tranquil and lovely.
Step into Modern Times
The Met has more than 12,000 works of art which date after 1900. From paintings by Matisse, Picasso and Jackson Pollock, these galleries are a feast for the eyes. The paintings in galleries 921 and 922 are a must-do for lovers of Abstract Expressionism. My friend Adrienne had to be torn away from Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm (Number 30). To me, Pollock is just paint drips, but she sees profound beauty. These galleries also offer classic works from Mark Rothko.
For me, the highlight was the beauty of the three photography galleries at the Met. The photos here change quite frequently, and there are often larger temporary exhibits on photography as well. You can expect to see photographs from the turn of the 19th century when the art form was just beginning. They are fascinating glimpses of moments captured in time, as well as beautiful works of art. There are also modern works, and classic photographs from Man Ray and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Do your tastes run to the more modern or more classic when it comes to art and museums? Whatever you prefer, there’s definitely plenty here for you at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.