Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
"…how dismal is progress without publicity…individuals love more to bask in the sunshine of popularity than they do to improve in some obscure intellectual shade. Merit is no object, conspicuity all."
—Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)
The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection of printed ephemera in the Department of Drawings and Prints includes over six thousand "tobacco cards" from the late 1800s that depict actresses of various levels of celebrity. Twenty-seven of these cards—which were inserted in cigarette packs and intended to be collected and traded much like baseball cards—advertise Daisy Murdoch, a mid-level burlesque actress of the 1880s. She constituted what we might call a "one-hit wonder" today; she was recognized by the public almost solely for her role as Cupid in the Bijou Opera Company's traveling production of Orpheus and Eurydice (1883–85). Murdoch's cards present a clear example of the dissemination of imagery and commodification of celebrity during this unique moment in print culture and theater history.
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Understanding an art object requires close observation and an interdisciplinary course of investigation that integrates the work of curators and conservators, the arts and the sciences. This work, however, is often done behind a curtain (so to speak), and visitors rarely have the opportunity to gain insight into the process. On August 4, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will unveil the secret world of curators and conservators with its latest installation in Gallery 599, Examining Opulence: A Set of Renaissance Tapestry Cushions. This one-room exhibition will give visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the fascinating and indispensable questions Museum curators and conservators pose as they investigate six luxurious, late Renaissance tapestry-woven cushion covers depicting scenes from the lives of biblical figureheads Abraham and Isaac.
Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014
Met Museum Presents begins its third season in September, which will bring an array of dazzling site-specific, gallery-based performances to the Museum. Filling the Met's spaces with music, dance, opera, and theater, world-class performers will continue our mission of creating exciting programs for the Museum and its collection, allowing audiences an unparalleled experience.
Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The industrialization and mechanization of war in the early twentieth century—which meant an increased use of artillery, tanks, and machine guns, and the advent of trench warfare—resulted in an unprecedented number of killed and wounded soldiers right from the outset of World War I in 1914. The large number of head wounds suffered by combatants soon made it apparent that metal helmets, though long out of use, were absolutely necessary on the modern battlefield and that other forms of armor also should be explored. Shortly after the United States entered the war in 1917, the government turned to Dr. Bashford Dean, curator of arms and armor at the Metropolitan Museum, to address the situation.
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Numerous representations of the sea are woven into the work of Claude Debussy (1862–1918). The French composer regularly referenced his awe of the sea and its power, and even noted that he had "intended for the noble career of a sailor" in a 1912 letter to close friend and composer André Messager. Although the sea had already played a recurring character throughout much of his piano music, the first appearance of this subject in Debussy's orchestral output was the final movement of his 1899 work Trois Nocturnes, "Sirènes," in which he gave life to the deadly mythological seductresses by adding a wordless female choir to the standard orchestral forces.
Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014
"The Administrator of Kuaiji [Wang Xizhi, ca. 303–ca. 361] is all mannerist cliché.
As the study of calligraphy declines, I enjoy a free rein with a laugh.
Scornful of following known calligraphers like a maid,
I take the stone tablet of Mount Hua as my master."
In 1736, leading artist Jin Nong (1687–1773) wrote this iconoclastic quatrain that reflects a momentous turning point in the development of Chinese calligraphy during his time. Abandoning the venerated tradition defined by the classic elegance of its patriarch, Wang Xizhi, Jin Nong turned to an earlier, less-sophisticated model—stone inscriptions of the ancient Han dynasty (206 b.c.–a.d. 220)—for guidance.
Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Ever wonder what it would have been like to live in Paris in the golden age of the French monarchy and to have the money to do it in style?
Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014
For arts institutions, engaging the younger demographic seems to be on everyone's mind. All eyes are on the twenty-somethings, and while those capricious millennials are important, it's the kids—the seven- to sixteen-year-olds seated next to their parents, still curious and open-minded—who are truly the ones with the potential to become loyal and life-long art fans.
Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2014
The online feature One Met. Many Worlds. launched on June 9, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide recently became available as an e-book on Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes; the print version will soon be released in Arabic, German, Korean, and Russian. These two projects present different perspectives on the highlights of the Museum's collection: One Met. Many Worlds. is driven by universal concepts that encourage the viewer to explore artworks in a new ways, while the Guide provides an essential art history background in a more traditional format. I recently spoke with Amy Liebster, associate coordinator for online publications, about both the web feature and the various versions of the print guide.
Posted: Monday, June 30, 2014
Architect Josef Hoffman, painter Koloman Moser, and textile industrialist Fritz Waerndorfer founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) in 1903 as a cooperative for artists and artisans. The Wiener Werkstätte began publishing postcards in 1907 and continued until the beginning of World War I. The postcards were among the least expensive or luxurious of the Wiener Werkstätte's products, which included furnishings for the homes of Viennese aristocrats. Most of the designs were intended solely for the postcard format, while a few were reproductions of earlier paintings.
Posted: Friday, June 27, 2014
There's a corner you turn in the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum where the labyrinth of galleries suddenly opens up into a staggering vista of The Temple of Dendur. Though I now always know what I'm about to see, turning that corner is still a powerful experience. Walking into Alarm Will Sound's first rehearsal for I Was Here I Was I at the Temple, I was struck by what an incredible thing it is to be creating art at the Met. We created I Was Here I Was I expressly for The Temple of Dendur, using it not only as venue, but as subject.
Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Join us in Gallery 399 for a special chance to see the installation of Sol LeWitt's 1982 Wall Drawing #370 in progress. The exhibition officially opens on June 30.
Above: Time-lapse photography of installers preparing Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #370.
The loan of Wall Drawing #370 is courtesy of The Estate of Sol LeWitt. The installation is made possible by The Modern Circle. Director/Producer: Kate Farrell; Time-Lapse Photography: Thomas Ling; Production Assistants: Caiti Borruso, Emily Chang
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Many #tapestrytuesday readers have asked why some tapestries in the Met's collection have such diverse color palettes. As it turns out, the question you should be asking isn't "Why?" but "Dye?" Understanding the preservation or degradation of a tapestry's color is a complex sort of query whose answer is largely influenced by the dyes used to color its threads. To help unravel the mystery of tapestry colors, I recently sat down for a fascinating lesson in dyeing with two of the Museum's tapestry experts: Cristina Carr, conservator in the Department of Textile Conservation; and Nobuko Shibayama, associate research scientist in the Department of Scientific Research.
Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Sarah Scaturro and Glenn Petersen are conservators in The Costume Institute who not only contributed to the conservation of Charles James's works in Charles James: Beyond Fashion, on view through August 10, but also authored an essay for the catalogue which accompanies the exhibition. The book offers a comprehensive study of the life and work of legendary Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906−1978) and highlights his virtuosity and inventiveness. This publication also includes early photographs and rarely seen archival items, such as muslin study pieces, dress forms, and sketches.
Posted: Monday, June 16, 2014
The year 2014 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of Albrecht Dürer's Melencolia I (1514), a masterpiece of engraving whose imagery has fascinated artists, historians, scientists, and mathematicians for centuries. In honor of this occasion, a small display of Melencolia and several works it influenced is on view through July 14 in the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Gallery.
Posted: Friday, June 13, 2014
When Kate Soper's adventurous score for I Was Here I Was I fills The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing on June 20, the gallery itself will be at the center of the performance. The Temple of Dendur has long been an unrivaled venue for concerts, but for this dramatic and unprecedented finale to Alarm Will Sound's yearlong residency, the Temple will be the principal character in a story that spans two millennia and three different storylines.
Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014
Today marks the opening day of the World Cup, the monthlong tournament in which teams from thirty-two nations will compete for the title of best soccer team in the world. Since the Metropolitan's collection includes works of art from all thirty-two nations participating in the games, we thought this would be a perfect occasion to celebrate the global nature of our holdings.
Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014
The Metropolitan Museum recently swept the AICA-USA Arts Awards for Excellence in Curatorial Achievement in the time-based media category.
Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The art at the Met reaches across the globe, so we wanted to start providing our collection information in some of the many languages represented by these cultures. Our new web feature One Met. Many Worlds. brings you more than five hundred collection highlights in eleven languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.