Art - For who's sake? - A visit to the Met

When I was wondering of a place to visit in New York, the only place that came to mind is the Met Museum. I've passed by the same whenever I was in New York and never thought twice about entering. But then this time felt that it was necessary that I get to walk around and see.

One of the reasons might be the historical interest which arises out of the reading you go through and then the curiosity of going to see one of the largest museum with a large collection of artifacts, which interest me as a reader of the classics and history. So just booked the ticket online (good thing, the queue spilling into the fifth avenue is better avoided!) and entered the moment the Met opened.

Having not seen the other great museums of the world, it was with a lot of expectation did I go inside. I was not deceived and in fact, I think I've found a few things about me that I did not know about.
Met comprises of halls and rooms divided into areas of interest. There is Greek and Roman art and sculptures, the paintings (modern, medieval and contemporary) , Egyptian art, China, India, Near East and the list goes on.

The collection is so huge and vast it will take at least a couple of days to do justice to it. But if one can narrow the interested areas to a large extent, it is still possible to at least wander around to your heart's content.

Perseus holding Medusa's head
Wall murals of Roman villa
That is another thing that you start doing by yourself. After walking around with the map for the first couple of hours, I let myself wander around after that as I found the near impossibility of trying to look for things. Rather, I decided I will look for things that are around me. So you end up wandering in the wrong direction, apologizing to everyone for coming the wrong way or finding yourself face to face with Medusa staring at you from Perseus's hand again and again.

Nimrud - Lamassu
The Greek and Roman part of the museum was vast as  well as the Egyptian art section. But these are histories I've read about a hundred times. I've watched documentaries, read, listened a hundred times to the history and the literature of the times.

Domestic Life
But still, it did not prepare me for the stunning accomplishments of these civilizations. The amount of Marbles in the Roman exhibits proclaimed the richness of the civilization and the artistic zenith of its citizens. The floorings, the wall paintings, the murals, the sculptures silently tell the story of the people who lived and prospered. 

The treasures of the pyramids, displayed in rooms after rooms, the multitude of which it is not humanely possible to look at even, the hues and colors of the little sculptures, the scenes of domestic life and the majestically recreated temple of Dendur, all tell us of people who lived with similar aspirations and nearly identical beliefs and values. It puts life in perspective.

Temple of Dendur
Chola Bronze
That said, the Egyptian exhibit also made me wonder what is now left in Egypt. It looks like except for the pyramids, everything else is stripped out. Knowing that the British Museum also has a huge collection, it is difficult to not wonder what are the chances for an average Egyptian to see his country's wonders?

Thomas Hart Benton
What I did not prepare myself for in the exhibits was the European art. I've read about its evolution, the masters, their histories, the famous paintings, how they represent this and that, the multitude of -isms that define the characteristics of their life and art etc a hundred times. Except as history, I never had any interest beyond that, i.e until yesterday.

Looking at a Picasso, in its setting, mounted and in the middle of a wall, changes the way you look at things. Met has a huge collection of Picasso, Vermeer, Monet, Carvaggio, Rembrandt, Goya, Benton and of course, Van Gogh. More than anything I found that art affects you profoundly without you realizing it. You stop, look at it, think and then you forget why you are there in the middle of room with a map in hand. You start thinking of things. I never thought it is possible. Have had the moments in some of the temples looking at inscriptions or sculptures even, but never thought it is possible to stand before a painting and then try to dig into the inner sanctums of mind.

Overall, a visit that will be remembered.

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