The Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the world’s greatest museums is the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 5th Ave., at 82nd St., 212/535-7710, www.metmuseum.org, 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun., 5:30–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., recommended admission adults $20, seniors $15, students $10, children free), on the east side of Central Park at 5th Avenue and 82nd Street.
Housed behind an imposing Beaux-Arts facade designed by Robert Morris Hunt, the museum spreads out over about 1.5 million square feet holding nearly three million works of art in collections of almost everything from Egyptian sarcophagi to modern American paintings.
Much of the recent renovation is complete, including 12 historic interiors reinterpreted to include interactive touch screens offering in-depth information about the furnishings and works, and the final completion of the American wing is slated for 2011.
Equally important, the museum’s exhibitions are well edited and well viewed. This is not an elite or stuffy institution. On weekends, the place takes on a carnival air as jugglers, acrobats, and vendors hawk their talents and wares on the museum’s wide staircase out front.
Directly up the staircase from the Great Hall is one of the Met’s most stunning collections—the European paintings, filling some 20-odd galleries. One room is filled with Rembrandts only; others house Vermeer, Van Dyck, Breughel, Rubens, Botticelli, El Greco, Goya, and many others.
To the right of the Great Hall is its famed Egyptian collection, displaying items as old as 4,000 years. The Met houses the largest collection of Egyptian art outside Egypt.
Three sides of the Met’s original building are flanked by modern glass wings. At the back is the Robert Lehman Collection, housing an impressive collection of Old Masters and 19th-century French painters. On the south side are the Rockefeller and Acheson Wings. The Lila Acheson Wing is devoted to 20th-century art; on its roof is a sculpture garden with great views of Central Park.
On the Met’s north side are the Sackler and American Wings. The Sackler Wing houses the 15th-century-B.C. Temple of Dendur, carved in faded hieroglyphics. The American Wing contains exhaustive galleries of decorative arts, and many fine paintings by the likes of Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt.
If possible, come on a weekday morning, or on a Friday or Saturday evening when the candlelit Great Hall Balcony Bar is open and a jazz or classical quintet performs.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition