The American Wing

30 Sep

I love the Met.

After 9/11, the Met was a major source of solace for me. I don’t remember, but I think for awhile they waived the entrance fee and I would just go to the Islamic Wing and contemplate what could make a culture that created such beautiful art do such an ugly thing. I know that there can’t possibly be any direct correlation, between art and the acts of a few people, but I needed to find some peace and some answers and I found them there.

The Islamic wing has been closed for several years and will be for several more. I miss it.  But judging from the makeover the American Wing just got, the wait will be worth.  Because despite what I’ve just said the American Wing is actually my favorite part of the museum.

I love the paintings and the silver and the jewelry and the stained glass and the furniture and the room vignettes and the bears sculpture, and despite the atrium’s gaudy makeover, I still love that too.  But why I love it even more now is the newly opened Luce Center.

It’s a room full of row upon row of visible storage containing thousands of pieces of furniture, paintings, silver cups, glass vases and every other bit of Americana the museum sees fit to display. It’s gorgeous, wonderful, overwhelming and stunning. I can’t wait to go back and devote an entire afternoon to gawking at all the beautiful things, and to contemplating how a culture that can craft such beauty can also do such horrid things sometimes.

Oh, and no trip to the museum is complete without a swing through the Temple of Dendur don’t you think? I leave the rest of the Egyptian Wing to the tourists, but Dendur? It’s a can’t miss.

4 Responses to “The American Wing”

  1. Christine September 30, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    God I love the Met. We used to go to a museum a week as a kid growing up in North Jersey, and on my weeks I favored the Met. (My sister was always picking the Museum of Natural History). I don’t know what my favorite wing is, although it might have been the Islamic Wing, I loved the room with the low seating going round…but most definitely my favorite spot is the Temple of Dendur. I used to haul my books into the city and study there as a university student. It was my own moment of zen.

    So many memories are tied into that place for me. Thanks for reminding me it has been far too much time since I last visited.

  2. ann October 1, 2009 at 7:12 am #

    Christine — That sounds like such a wonderful family tradition! I was so surprised when they shut the Islamic wing after 9/11, I thought, wow, this smacks of fear-mongering. But now I’m just excited for them to reopen, only two more years! I wish I had had the opportunity to study in the Temple of Dendur, how cool! Thanks for sharing :-)

  3. Lisa October 17, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

    Ann,

    “(after 9/11)…I would just go to the Islamic Wing and contemplate what could make a culture that created such beautiful art do such an ugly thing. I know that there can’t possibly be any direct correlation, between art and the acts of a few people, but I needed to find some peace and some answers and I found them there…

    …and to contemplating how a culture that can craft such beauty can also do such horrid things sometimes.”

    I’d love to hear what sort of answers you found in the Met’s Islamic collections.

    FYI, the Metropolitan’s Islamic art collections were not closed for any sort of alarmist reasons. They had been scheduled (awaiting) to close for re-assessment for quite a while previous to the Sept. 11 attacks. It’s a good thing that they did, considering their home in a North American encyclopedic museum, where “oriental” collection risks basking in obscurity

  4. ann October 18, 2009 at 8:22 am #

    Lisa — I know that the wing was already scheduled to be closed, but I do think the timing was unfortunate. I know I wasn’t alone in those days. You could tell from the looks of other people walking around–dazed, glazed–that they, too, were there in hopes of finding something.

    And actually, I think you’ve pretty much grasped my conclusions, that you can’t judge a culture’s martial abilities based on their art, and that you can’t judge an entire culture on one event. So, the lesson I’ve learned is to find peace, serenity, pleasure and happiness in art, and if I want to know what makes a culture tick? I talk to people. I think it’s a more enlightening path to understanding.

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