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The Cloisters marks its 75th anniversary with fetes and exhibits

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval museum and gardens in Northern Manhattan kicks off the celebrations with the show "Search for the Unicorn."

  • Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In Search of the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of the Cloisters' 75th Anniversary

    The Unicorn in Captivity South Netherlandish, ca. 1495–1505 Wool warp, wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts 368 x 251.5 cm The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937 (37.80.6)

  • Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In Search of the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of the Cloisters' 75th Anniversary

    Animals of the Holy Land, from Peregrinatio in terram sanctam Text by Bernard von Breydenbach; illustrated and printed by Erhard Reuwich German, 1486 Woodcut in printed book 12 5/8 x 9 1/16 x 1 3/8 in. (32 x 23 x 3.5 cm) closed The Metropolitan Museum of

  • Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In Search of the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of the Cloisters' 75th Anniversary

    A Maiden Taming a Unicorn, detail from the Worksop Bestiary English, possibly Lincoln or York, ca. 1185 Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment 8 1/2 x 6 1/8 in. (21.5 x 15.5 cm) The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

  • Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In Search of the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of the Cloisters' 75th Anniversary

    Aquamanile in the Form of a Unicorn German, Nuremberg, ca. 1425–50 Copper alloy 15 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 4 7/16 in. (39.4 x 29.2 x 11.3 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1964 (64.101.1493)

  • Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In Search of the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of the Cloisters' 75th Anniversary

    Birth Tray with the Triumph of Chastity Workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni (Italian, 1415/17–1465) Italian, Florence, ca. 1450–60 Tempera and gold leaf on panel 23 x 23 1/4 in. (58.4 x 59.1 cm) North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, Gift of the Samuel H.

  • Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In Search of the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of the Cloisters' 75th Anniversary

    Iskandar Kills the Monster of Habash, folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings). Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020) Persian, Northwestern Iran or Baghdad, ca. 1300–1330 Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper 7 1/4 x 6 1/8 in. (18.4 x 15.6 cm) The Met

Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Search of the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of the Cloisters' 75th Anniversary

The Unicorn in Captivity South Netherlandish, ca. 1495–1505 Wool warp, wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts 368 x 251.5 cm The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937 (37.80.6)


The much-loved Cloisters in northern Manhattan is marking a big milestone in May 2013—its 75th anniversary—and it's going all out to fete its legacy, starting with a show that celebrates the Unicorn Tapestries, the works for which the medieval museum and gardens is best known, and a weekend family festival to go with it. If you're looking for something to do this spring, here are five kid-friendly ways to join in the Cloisters' medieval-minded fun.

Ogle a masterpiece
Check out the first show dedicated to the museum's birthday, "Search for the Unicorn," showcasing the Cloisters' seven treasured Unicorn Tapestries, plus a wide array of art depicting unicorns from around the globe; it opens on Wednesday, May 15. The tapestries, woven in wool and silk and dating from the late Middle Ages, depict a hunt for the mythical creature amid a sylvan landscape, yet their symbolism remains elusive. John D. Rockefeller gave the hangings to the Cloisters on the occasion of the museum's opening in 1938, so the show is a particularly apt way to say happy birthday.

Search for other unicorns
Look for other horned beasts in the works brought together for the show, including the English Bestiary, a 12th-century manuscript in which the unicorn is pictured laying its head on a young girl, lent by the Morgan Library & Museum; a Florentine platter bearing two unicorns pulling a golden chariot meant to depict Chastity; a late 15th-century dish on which the unicorn serves as a symbol of love and marriage; and an illustrated travel diary from 1486 that claims its unicorn was drawn from life, among many other works.

Play art historical botanist
During the first few weeks of the exhibition, kids with a keen eye for detail will enjoy the plantings and potted plants, including a special millefleurs, found in the Bonnefont Garden. See if they can identify which ones are depicted in the Unicorn Tapestries, then help them learn their names.

Attend a medieval family festival
Head to the Cloisters on the weekend of May 25–26 (noon–4pm both days) for the mythical creature–themed Family Festival at the Cloisters: In Search of the Unicorn. Guided tours of the new exhibition incorporating gallery-based art activities will be offered all afternoon long, and families are invited to participate in a self-guided art scavenger hunt too. On Saturday, May 25, children's book author Mary Pope Osborne will read from her book Blizzard of the Blue Moon (part of the Magic Tree House series), about a boy and a girl who time-travel back to 1930s New York to save the last unicorn (guess where!).

Plan your next trip to the Cloisters
The "Unicorns" show isn't the only exhibit celebrating the Cloisters' momentous year. This fall, in the Cloisters' first-ever contemporary art show, artist Janet Cardiff will bring her sound installation The Forty Part Motet (2001) to the Fuentidueña Chapel. Forty speakers will project a reworking of the 40-voice motet Spem in alium numquam habui (ca. 1573) by composer Thomas Tallis. Visitors can walk from speaker to speaker to hear the individual singing voices, one per speaker, or take in all 40 at once. And in March 2014, "Caterbury Stained Glass" will showcase six panels of stained glass depicting six enthroned figures, from England's Canterbury cathedral. It will be the first time the works have left the cathedral since they were crafted in 1178–80.

"Search for the Unicorn" will be on view at the Cloisters through Aug 18. In honor of the 75th anniversary, admission to the Met will include one-time admission to the Cloisters for an entire week, rather than the usual one day—and vice-versa.


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