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A Brief History and Significance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Museums are wormholes to other worlds. They are ecstasy machines. Follow your eyes to wherever they lead you and the world should begin to change for you.”

Jerry Saltz

There’s always that one time of year when our phones buzz non-stop and our feed is filled with pictures of celebrities with their maximalist display of fashion. Whether you like it or not, The Met Gala has you invested. So what exactly is the history behind the legendary venue AKA the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, that hosts this extravaganza? Well, for starters, it was established on April 13, 1870, in the Dodworth building in New York.

The Marble Sarcophagus at Met
Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

As prominent as the name sounds, the Met was not always at the prominent centre of art and history that it is right now. The Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC was essentially formed with a vision to promote art and art history in America. It was initiated by a group of philanthropists, civic leaders, the wealthy, the bourgeoisie businessmen and financiers. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was launched initially with no artwork that belonged to its label. It was gradually that artworks from all around the world started to come into the museum.

Imagine. The year is 1870. The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibits its first acquisition, a Roman marble sarcophagus from the 3rd century A.D. It was this year that the Metropolitan Museum of Art gained a total of 174 paintings in total through a private European collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibitions were adorned by artists such as Van Dyck, Hals, Guardi, Tiepolo and Poussin.

Van Gogh Self-Portrait at the Met
Courtesy: The New York Times

It was in 1880, that the site of the museum was officially relocated to Central Park (present location). The architectural style of the building was inspired by the Gothic Revival genre of design. The building is a scenic beauty that presents grand imagery as soon as an individual sets their eyes upon it. The construction of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as it stands in the present day, concluded in 1926. The structure holds grandeur to date, over a century and a half years after its establishment.

The history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York owes a large part of its contribution to the Impressionist as well as Post-Impressionist artworks – that emerged in the 19th-century Avant-Garde movement – which now defines the museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds infamous and treasured paintings of the era of artists such as Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, etc. The galleries dedicated to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works are the most visited parts of the museum, as art from this era is enjoyed by art scholars and the general public alike.

The Death Of Socrates by Jacques Louis David
Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

As previously mentioned, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is also famously known for hosting the infamous ‘Met Gala’ which is essentially an exclusive event hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. The event is a fundraiser hosted to raise money to fund the fashion department of the Met. The fame of the gala, however, is owed to Anna Wintour (Vogue’s editor-in-chief), the lady who changed the trajectory of the gala since she joined the board. Every year the gala announces a theme and the invited celebrities are to showcase their individualities in line with the theme of the gala. This year’s theme is ‘Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion’.

Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies by Claude Monet
Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is evident from the eminent amount of historical significance the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds even to date as it grows progressively with each passing decade. The museum houses some of the most famous artworks in art history from The Death of Socrates (1787) to the Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies (1840-42) by Claude Monet. It’s not just the amalgamation of these artworks that makes the Met, it is also the experience of history and curiosity of the artistic minds that makes the museum the monumental structure that it is today. One may hold the museum in high regard but even the Metropolitan Museum of Art photos (both the building, housed artworks, and undoubtedly the celebs) evoke the same emotions of unattainable grandeur in the audiences.

Image Courtesy – Wikipedia

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