While other museums may have a finer collection of some particular specialty, in general value and interest the Metropolitan is supreme. There is almost nothing imaginable of worth or beauty, from paintings through sculpture to early American furniture and antique jewelry, that is not worthily represented and well displayed.
-Cue’s Guide to New York City, chap. 11: Museums
My original plan was to go and see the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan today, but I changed it because it was going to rain. The forcasters were very clear on this point, from the Weather Channel, to the local stations to the CNN website: major rain on Friday. Having interpreted the tone of the last sentence, you, dear reader, know exactly what happened. It didn’t rain. Normally I would not consider this cause for alarm, and I am glad that my feet are not wet as well as sore; I’m just worried that I may have spent most of the nicest day of my trip indoors.
Of course, I didn’t spend it indoors just anywhere; I spent it indoors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But first I did some shopping. Not a lot of shopping- not major shopping, just a little looking around at Rockefeller Center, which seemed like the right thing to do, seeing as how it’s about half a block from my hotel. And actually, I saw some art there too, in four shipping containers that had been converted into a display area for some very modern artists. I kind of liked the one who made flower motifs on the walls out of monkey bones, and the small figure dressed in childrens’ clothes that periodically pounded its head against the wall with jackhammer force was certainly arresting, but the video installation had crashed and the giant wall-hangings made of Spongebob Squarepants toys was just confusing.
I am, perhaps, not the ideal audience for the truly cutting edge.
Since I had already blown a good chunk of my morning before I realized that it was not going to rain, I decided to stick with my new plan and hit the museum, which I reached via subway. And I would like to point out that I was able to successfully purchase my metrocard (unlimited rides for seven days), make it through the gate on my second try and figure out before I got on that ‘downtown’ was not the direction I wanted to go.
In case you weren’t aware, the Met is an impressively large building, and one good way to look like a total tourist dork is to stand in front of it with your head tilted back, looking up and squinting. I am a total tourist dork.
Once inside, I paid the very aggressively ‘suggested’ donation and got a map of the museum. Which I promptly left in the bathroom, so I went back and got another. I knew coming in that I wasn’t going to be able to see everything, so I took the advice of my guidebook and focused on the things that were of the most interest to me: ancient Egypt, nineteenth century European paintings and sculpture, and the gift shop. I was getting a late start, it was almost one by this point, but the museum is open until nine on Fridays, so I figured I’d have enough time to see a few things.
Hitting the Egyptian wing was a no-brainer; you could not keep me away from that stuff with a stick. Except for the mummies. I don’t care how long they’ve been dead or how interesting their preservation process was, putting someone’s dessicated corpse under glass for morons to try and take flash photos of is Not Cool. Displaying miniature models of daily life in ancient Egypt that were recovered from the tombs of said mummies, on the other hand, is Very Cool, as is having a complete tomb (sans mummy) which one can enter and examing the hieroglyphics first-hand (behind plexiglas, of course). There was also a special exhibition about a woman who declared herself pharoah and served as co-ruler with her nephew/stepson, which was also cool but my feet were starting to get sore.
This was when I discovered that sore feet=art appreciation. By the time I got to the Impressionist galleries I couldn’t walk another step, so I plopped myself down on one of the benches and appreciated until my feet felt better. Then I moved to the next gallery and did the same. There really was a lot to appreciate. Seriously, it was almost an embarassment of riches- wall after wall of Monet, Van Gough, Degas, Manet, Seurat… it was like a Great Impressionists screensaver come to life.
Speaking of which, is there anything more pointless than taking a photograph of a famous painting in a museum? You know it’s not going to come out very well, and anyway, if you wanted a copy you can get it on a print, t-shirt, mousepad or mug at pretty much any yuppie-supply store. Then there were the people who were taking turns having their pictures taken next to one of Monet’s waterlilies paintings, like it was the world’s largest ball of earwax or something… I’m ranting again, aren’t I? Sorry about that.
One of the reasons I had kind of wanted to go to the Met today was that on Fridays and Saturdays they have live music and a bar on the balcony over the Great Hall, which sounded pretty cool. It was. I got a fancy drink and a duck terrine (which ended up being my dinner) and sat for a while, watching the people and listening to the music. Then I went and looked at a special exhibition about Tibetan arms and armor, but since by that point I was very tired and just the littlest bit drunk, I’m afraid it didn’t sink in very well.
All in all, a great day, which could only have been made better if the A’s had actually managed to score some runs against the Yankees.