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Now at the Met

Intern Spotlight: Ibrahim Mohamed Ali's Work in Photograph Conservation

Nora Kennedy, Sherman Fairchild Conservator, Department of Photograph Conservation

Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ibrahim Mohamed Ali joined the Metropolitan Museum's paid summer intern program from his position as a conservator at the Grand Egyptian Museum via the George Washington University Museum Studies Program, where he is working toward his master's degree. With a background in the conservation and preservation of metal archaeological artifacts but with an immense passion for everything photographic, Ibrahim delved into all aspects of photograph conservation during his nine weeks at the Met this past summer.

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Sacrifice, Fealty, and a Sculptor's Signature on a Maya Relief

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015

One of the Maya masterworks at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an eighth-century relief with enthroned ruler, likely a fragment of the carved lintel of a doorway from the site of La Pasadita in northwestern Guatemala (fig. 1). La Pasadita was visited in the 1970s by renowned explorer and monument recorder Ian Graham, but subsequently became dangerous for scholarly visits because of border conflicts during the country's decades-long civil conflict. Land mines and security problems prevented archaeological work until 1998, when Charles Golden and colleagues performed reconnaissance in the area. Even today, the site lies within a troubled zone suffering the effects of narcotrafficking and illegal settlements within the national parks in the Usumacinta River drainage.

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Celebrating Nauruz with The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp is a tenth-century epic by the Persian poet Firdausi, chronicling Iran's mythical history before the founding of Islam. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's publication is a facsimile of the most lavishly illustrated version of the text, produced for the Safavid Shah Tahmasp, who ruled Iran from 1524 to 1576.

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Now on View: Drawings by Bill Traylor, Pioneer of Outsider Art, in The American Wing

Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge, The American Wing

Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015

"[Traylor] was beautiful to see—so right with himself and at peace—as the rich imagery of his long life welled up into his drawings and paintings."

—Charles Shannon, 1985

A few weeks ago in gallery 749—where we've been featuring a range of nineteenth-century American folk art—we installed eight drawings from the late 1930s by the acclaimed pioneer of so-called outsider art, Bill Traylor (1853/54–1949). This is the first time in twenty years that these works have been seen at the Met—and the very first in The American Wing.

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Evoking the Divine: Mental Purification Using a Tibetan Tsakali Mandala

Kurt Behrendt, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015

Tsakali cards were used by a practitioner, usually a monk or nun, under the guidance of a teacher to evoke a Buddhist deity. As these teachers traveled from one monastery to the next, using sets of portable tsakali cards was an efficient way of presenting the vast pantheon of Buddhist gods.

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Dana Claxton to Perform Original Piece, Fringed, at the Met

Amanda Malcolm, Intern, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Sunday, March 15, filmmaker, photographer, and performance artist Dana Claxton will present an original piece entitled Fringed, which she created specifically for the Metropolitan Museum in honor of the exhibition The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky. Claxton's art, which is also represented in the exhibition, expresses reverence for her Lakota heritage and challenges the viewer to engage with Native American identities in contemporary society.

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Painting Beauty: A Recent Acquisition

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Almost invariably," writes Stendahl in the Italian Chronicles, "foreigners coming to Rome ask to be taken, at the outset of their tour of inspection, to the Barberini gallery; they are attracted, the women especially, by the portraits of Beatrice Cenci and her stepmother." Beatrice, of course, not only had possessed beauty, but she had a story, having been publicly executed for the murder of her cruel, molesting father.

What was thought to be her portrait (above) was painted by the "Divine Guido Reni" (1575–1642). Reni was a great artist, but the picture Stendahl admired was not, in fact, by him and certainly cannot hold a candle to the portrait of an unknown beauty recently given to the Metropolitan Museum and now hanging—following its cleaning and reframing—in gallery 623.

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The Plains Indians Exhibition: A Milestone for the Met

Judith Ostrowitz, Research Associate, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Monday, March 9, 2015

Today, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, a ground-breaking exhibition of Native American art, opens to the public at the Metropolitan Museum. Although indigenous art from North America has been presented at the Museum before, both in the permanent galleries in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing and in smaller-scale temporary exhibitions, this project represents a certain milestone in the Museum's history. It focuses on a single region and includes more than 150 works of art that range from ancient stone sculptures made before European contact through painted buffalo hides and items of prestigious regalia to more recent works on paper, paintings, photographs, and a contemporary video installation piece. The scope of this exhibition is extremely ambitious, and I am delighted to have been a part of this project as the organizer for the venue here in New York.

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L'Estampe Originale: A Rare Print Portfolio Now Online

Britany Salsbury, Former Research Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints; and Lisa Conte, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation

Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015

During its two-year print run, the print portfolio L'Estampe Originale (1893–95) brought together the most sophisticated developments in printmaking by a range of vanguard artists. The Met's unique, complete edition of the prints was recently digitized and is now available for consultation online.

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The Conservation of the Jabach Portrait: Starting the Retouching

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Michael Gallagher uses gouache paint to retouch losses in the Jabach portrait, which has been undergoing conservation for the past eight months.

With the exception of the inevitable damage caused by the turning over of the top of the canvas to attach it to a smaller stretcher (see my September 24, 2014, post about this aspect of the painting's history), the great Jabach family portrait is in exceptional condition. Nevertheless, there are several small losses and scrapes that are typical for a painting of this age and size and which hung in domestic interiors—albeit quite grand ones—for centuries. So the next step is to retouch these areas.

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The Gilded Road: A Journey in Tweets

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Monday, March 2, 2015

I recently embarked on a research trip that revealed new insights into the cultural contexts of some of the Met's most beloved objects made of gold, silver, and copper from Central and South America. The ancient artists that lived in present-day Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru produced incredible metal masterpieces now found in national, public, and private collections around the world. Though the specific focus of my trip was to study metallurgical traditions, visits to archaeological sites and new museums held many surprises pertaining to the arts of architecture, textiles, pottery, and even woodworking. Throughout the trip, I documented our team's visits to each place on Twitter. Here is a summary of the three-week journey from Panama to Peru, illustrated with a selection of the photos I tweeted.

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Bloomberg Hosts Instameet at the Met

Christopher Gorman, Assistant Administrator, Marketing and External Relations; Chair, Spectrum

Posted: Friday, February 27, 2015

On Monday, February 2, I was thrilled to be a part of a Bloomberg Philanthropies–hosted "Instameet," an event bringing together people who use Instagram for a whirlwind session of picture-taking. I found myself among some wonderful Museum colleagues, staff from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and some of the most influential Instagramers in New York City.

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Destruction at the Mosul Museum

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2015

Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum's collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.

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Nine "Secrets" about the History of the Met's Department of Asian Art

Mike Hearn, Douglas Dillon Chairman of the Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, February 20, 2015

In preparing a history of the Museum's Department of Asian Art, which this year celebrates its centennial by showcasing its unparalleled collection through a range of exhibitions, gallery talks, and other offerings, I have uncovered a number of little-known facts and many "secrets" that are not widely known to the public. Here are nine of the most fascinating.

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The Met's Joint Mission to Malqata

Catharine H. Roehrig, Curator, Department of Egyptian Art

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The remains of the festival city of Malqata are located on the west bank of the Nile, about 430 miles south of Cairo, opposite the modern city of Luxor (usually referred to by Egyptologists as Thebes). The festival city dates to the time of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned during the second half of Dynasty 18, during Egypt's New Kingdom. This pharaoh was the father of Akhenaten, and very likely the grandfather of Tutankhamun.

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The Mummy of Nesmin: A Closer Look

Isabel Stünkel, Associate Curator, Department of Egyptian Art; and Sarah Nankivell, 2014 Intern, Department of Egyptian Art and Digital Media Department

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015

For several years The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been collaborating with the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Radiology, using computed tomography (CT) to scan objects in the Museum's collection for research purposes.

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Guns, Paper, and Stains: Preserving History through Interdepartmental Collaboration

Angela Campbell, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2015

Included in the Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions 2003–2014 exhibition, curated by Donald J. La Rocca and currently on display in the galleries of the Department of Arms and Armor though December 6, are several printed designs associated with ornamental firearms. Upon acquisition, two of these prints—the decorative title page from the album Plusieurs Piéces et Ornements Darquebuzerie, acquired in 2011, and a design for the stock of a musket from the Nouveaux Desseins D'Arquebuseries De Lacollombe, acquired in 2013—appeared similarly stained and damaged, but underwent distinctly different conservation campaigns. The two prints, as well as all of the other works on paper currently on display, will be on view through March 2015, due to their preservation needs.

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Using Color to Link Cultures: An Eighteenth-Century Islamic Tile in Context

Fatima Quraishi, 2014–15 Hagop Kevorkian Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Department of Islamic Art has over three thousand ceramic objects in its collection, with perhaps the largest corpus of the collection acquired from the Museum's excavations in Nishapur, Iran, during the mid-twentieth century. While the department maintains a fine collection of Safavid and Ottoman ceramics, ceramic work from south Asia is not as well represented. Among these examples of south Asian ceramics, my favorite is an eighteenth-century tile from Multan, in present-day Pakistan (pictured above). In terms of both material and technique, the tile is typical of ceramics from this part of south Asia, as are three similar objects in the collection—an eighteenth-century dish and two late fifteenth-century tiles (2008.461 and 2008.462).

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Back in Print—High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Monday, February 9, 2015

The perfect Valentine's Day gift for the fashion lover, High Style is now back in print as a paperback, with an updated cover that features the stunning "Clover Leaf" gown by Charles James. This lavishly illustrated volume presents some two hundred examples drawn from more than twenty-four thousand garments, accessories, hats, and shoes in the Brooklyn Museum's collection (which was transferred to the Met in 2009). A wide-ranging book covering garments from the eighteenth through the twentieth century, High Style provides a perfect introduction to the history of fashion.

In honor of Valentine's Day, read further to learn more about seven romantically hued ensembles featured in this publication.

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Andrew Bolton Wins 2015 Vilcek Prize in Fashion

Nancy Chilton, Chief Communications Officer for The Costume Institute

Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015

Andrew Bolton, curator in The Costume Institute, was chosen as the winner of the Vilcek Prize in Fashion for his curatorial work that elevates fashion as an art form. The prize is part of the 2015 Vilcek Prize and Creative Promise Prizes in the Arts, which are awarded in the field of fashion, and spotlight foreign-born artists with records of major achievement in their fields.

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Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.