The Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing reopens
After 30 years of remaining largely untouched, the newly renovated American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will reopen to the public on 16th January, 2012, after undergoing a four-year $100m renovation. Designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates, the project was undertaken with two goals in mind: to refashion the galleries to be more sympathetic to the art and to acknowledge the changing tastes of a new generation of museum goers, which led also to a wholesale rethinking of the collection itself and how it could be presented anew.
”The painting galleries were so dreary, said Morrison Heckscher, chairman of the American Wing, in an interview with the New York Times. “They were shapeless, cavernous spaces that were not at all in scale. They were also on two floors, with the most popular 19th century painting displayed in a hard-to-find mezzanine.” Now on one level, the galleries have been gutted and reconfigured and 3,000 square feet of new space has been added, creating 26 galleries dedicated to paintings and sculpture.
The new galleries are organized both chronically and thematically and the collection, whilst once ending with American Impressionism, now ends with the Ashcan School. While some works have been given more due and others have receded into the background, depending on how the objects have changed in importance over the years, the galleries themselves, while modern, harken back to the past, echoing the scale, proportion and detailing of 19th Century Beaux Arts domestic architecture.
This seems an appropriate, if not also a logical tact, given that many of the works in the collection were originally housed in domestic rooms and as the Museum itself, which was designed by Richard Morris Hunt in the late 19th and early 20th century and later expanded, is a masterwork of the Beaux Arts era. As Heckscher told the Times, the Met’s new space ‘tells the story of American art and in the process American history’.