Metropolitan Museum of Art

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  • Kate Moss by Peter Lindbergh from the exhibition Model as Muse

  • Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone...

  • Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone...

  • Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone...

  • Anish Kapoor, Untitled Silver Dish. Photograph by Marlene Rounds

  • Baseball cards from the collection of Jefferson R. Burdick. Photograph by...

  • Baseball cards from the collection of Jefferson R. Burdick. Photograph by...

  • Honus Wagner baseball card from the Met's archives

  • Roxy Paine, Maelstrom on the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Photograph...

  • The Temple of Dendur

  • Seasonal bouquets in the alcoves of the Great Hall. Photograph by Marlene Rounds

  • John Vanderlyn, Panoramic View of the Palace and Gardens of Versailles

  • John Vanderlyn, Panoramic View of the Palace and Gardens of Versailles...

  • Astor Court

  • Japanese Reading Room

  • Great Hall Balcony Bar. Photograph by Gay Reboli

Kate Moss by Peter Lindbergh from the exhibition Model as Muse

1 Despite everything on view at the Met, you still can’t see the whole collection. On the second floor of the American Wing, there’s an open storage area where art is displayed in glass cases while galleries undergo renovations. There you can admire a fraction of the museum’s thousands of rare baseball cards, donated by electrician Jefferson R. Burdick. (The rest, including a 1909 Honus Wagner valued at more than $2 million, are stored in the archives.) Until 1993, the cards were available for viewing by appointment only: It’s rumored that practice stopped because fanatic card collectors would pocket the valuable ones.

2 See more than art in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, which offers Central Park and skyline vistas and hosts a different sculpture show every summer. For this year, Conceptual artist Roxy Paine created Big Bamb: You Can't, You Don't, and You Won't Stop, a gigantic wavelike structure fashioned from bamboo that is continually evolving over the year.

3 No, Livingston is not an Egyptian surname: That moniker, among others etched into the Temple of Dendur, is part of centuries of graffiti dating back to 15 B.C. Look for scribbles in various languages (e.g., LEONARDO 1820) made by tourists to prove they were there, prior to the Temple’s Met arrival in 1978.

4 Catch a glimpse of what the city looked like between 1950-1980 in Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players, a New York photography series by Leon Levinstein. Interestingly, Levinstein never worked as a full-time photographer; his day job was graphic design and snapping the streets was something he did on the weekends. This should give hope to any anyone who's still wondering why they shelled out so much cash for a digital SLR.

5 Before ascending the granite steps that lead to the museum’s entrance, glance up at the Fifth Avenue facade: Lost amid all that Beaux Arts glory are the pyramid-shaped piles of untouched Indiana limestone atop each Corinthian column that were meant to be carved into ornate sculptures. They’re unfinished because funding from Albany dried up; same goes for the circular stone blanks on the walls of the Great Hall, which never had portraits chiseled onto them as intended.

6 The four alcoves in the Great Hall once housed classical sculpture, but they now showcase lavish floral arrangements that are themselves works of art. Every Monday, when the museum is closed to the public, third-generation Dutch flower designer Remco van Vliet arranges new seasonal bouquets in enormous two-foot-high urns. Though they’re intended to last the week, Tuesdays are when you’ll catch them at their freshest.

7 Better watch what you say while viewing John Vanderlyn’s Panoramic View of the Palace and Gardens of Versailles (1818--19): This oval room in the American Wing, which was specially built to house that 19th-century oil painting, happens to be a whisper gallery, carrying a conversation along the walls to the opposite end.

8 The Met encompasses a daunting 2 million square feet, making the occasional rest stop mandatory. Park yourself in the Astor Court in the Asian Art department, a bright, airy courtyard modeled after the retreat of a Ming Dynasty scholar. The benches, bamboo plants and trickling water attract a flood of weary tourists; for those seeking complete solitude, head to the Japanese Reading Room in the Sackler Wing Galleries for Japanese art, where you’ll find handsome dark-wood furniture and a window overlooking the Temple of Dendur. It’s almost always empty.

9 The roof isn’t the only spot where you can drink in the museum: On Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 8pm, sip wine ($12), beer ($7) or a mojito ($12) at the second-floor Great Hall Balcony Bar, which peers onto the stately foyer. Live classical music courtesy of a piano player or a string quartet adds to the sophisticated atmosphere.

11 A current hot-button issue in the museum world is the question of how ancient artworks were obtained and to whom they really belong. Learn more from former (and controversial) curator Oscar White Muscarella, a vocal opponent of the illegal acquisition of antiquities. Unaffiliated with the museum, Muscarella leads SAFE tours (savingantiquities.org, $40) of the Ancient Near Eastern galleries, first stopping at the Greek and Roman Art, which he’s dubbed “the Temple of Plunder” because he believes that the majority of the art there has been looted. Under its new director, Thomas Campbell, the Met has tightened its acquisition guidelines.

12 The museum leads free hour-long guided tours daily (for times, pick up a schedule at the information desk in the Great Hall). But if you want to hear the real dirt, book a spot on Art Masters Tours’ “Museum Confidential” (3--4pm; advance $25, day of tour $30; artmasterstours.com). Led by Karla DeVries and Leslie Wallick, the tour covers the Met’s more scandalous works and divulges behind-the-scenes secrets that the pamphlets don’t tell you about.

MORE NOT-BORING MUSEUMS


AIA Center for Architecture

Museum of American Finance

Asia Society

Bronx Museum of the Arts

Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Morgan Library & Museum

Museum of the City of New York

The Paley Center for Media

Queens Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art




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