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New renovation at The Met will highlight African, Ancient American and Oceanic art

It's been 38 years since the African, Ancient American and Oceanic art galleries have been touched.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

A wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is undergoing a monumental update that'll transform its galleries into modern, light-filled showrooms for Sub-Saharan African, Ancient American and Oceanic art.

By 2024, visitors to the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing will experience a totally new way to see its art with more light, increased space and reconfigured galleries.

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The galleries for sub-Saharan African Art (Galleries 350, 351, 352), Ancient American Art (Galleries 356, 357, 358) and Oceanic art (Galleries 353, 354, 355) have already closed in preparation for the renovation project that heavily features a new glass wall and skylights that'll allow better and more natural illumination of the artwork and a modern, white background.

The wing, which opened in 1982 was a "radical expansion of the cultural achievements recognized by the museum," the Met says. "Since then, we have witnessed a surge in transformative and expanded art historical studies on the vast areas of world art these galleries embrace. Those advances of the last thirty-eight years have in turn sparked a reenvisioning of this global crossroads within the museum."

Developed over the last four years with wHY Architects, the new wing will showcase artifacts and works in a more modern way.

When it opens, the African Art gallery will reconfigure the collection, which spans nearly 3,000 works from across sub-Saharan Africa and two millennia, several hundred distinct cultures, and 39 contemporary nation-states, in a chronological and geographical way with major landmarks leading visitors across times and places through four main spaces divided into smaller chapels. It'll be refreshed with film, audio guides and prompts to online content to make Africa's artistic vibrancy more visible.

African galleries Met Museum
Rendering courtesy wHY Architects and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The monumental stone sculptures, spiritually-charged vessels in wood and ceramic, shimmering regalia of gold and shell and exquisitely woven textiles and featherwork of Latin American artists will be featured in the new daylit Central Park galleries and in special, low-light spaces. Fresh narratives from experts across the country and Latin America will be added as well.

Ancient American galleries Met Museum
Rendering courtesy wHY Architects and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met’s collection of Oceanic Art, which contains more than 2,800 works that include monumental architecture, elaborately carved ancestral figures and spectacular ritual regalia like towering slit drums, spiritually charged reliquaries and dazzling turtle-shell masks, will be reorganized in a diagonal format and focus on local and indigenous knowledge. At each end of the dramatic high-ceilinged space, there will be a soaring installation of Asmat art to the north and the iconic Kwoma ceiling, illuminated by natural light, to the south. The museum will add digital and audio features to provide contemporary perspectives from the region in order to offer a more complete context and a chance to appreciate the works even more.

Oceanic gallery Met Museum
Rendering courtesy wHY Architects and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

All the galleries within the Rockefeller Wing are planned to reopen by 2024.

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