An Important Lesson From New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art

Michael Loren

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

Yesterday's adventure was a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. No, I've never been. Yes, I know that's lame that I've never been.  Now, I'm sitting down to blog about the museum. The whole museum. Uh . . . yeah.

Here's the problem with museums. There's too much stuff in them. I get stressed out. I want to fully appreciate every piece. I want to know the artist's history, look at the work under a microscope and from afar, and commit it to memory forever. There never seems to be enough time for that.

Somehow, it seems a shame to take so many stunning pieces of art that have been pondered and created with such talent and attention to detail and throw them all into one climate controlled building, separate them according to time period, and charge admission. 

I entered the huge building, saw that it was teeming with tourists and (yech!) children, paid $12 of suggested admission (I would feel guilty only paying $1, but you totally can if you want), and headed toward the intended starting place - The Art of the Samurai.

Along the way, I was literally stopped in my tracks by a Linck painting entitled View of the Massif of Mont-Blanc. Having grown up surrounded by mountains, I was mesmerized. He used the exact color of green, the contour of the cliffs. Somehow, I knew that mountain. (Obviously, I didn't actually KNOW this mountain, but anyway, you get the point.) I was in Virginia instantly. Breaking my Linck spell, I looked around at all the fanny pack toting tourists rushing past me toward the Samurai exhibit and angrily thought, "How can you just walk by and miss this?!?!"

Through my next few hours at the Met, I felt this same indignance about two other pieces. I absolutely fell in love with Rodin's sculpture, Eternal Spring (one of the most intimately erotic sculptures I've ever encountered). "Why are you stupid tourists not drinking in this treasure?"

I also fell in love with the entire glorious skylit sculpture court (if you go to the Met, see this room toward midday - the sun shining through the skylight bringing the contours of marble into relief is worth the trip to the East side). I sat down and was fascinated by a particular sarcophagus I don't (embarrassingly) remember much about. Why don't I remember? Because I was exhausted.

My head was brimming with 10,000 facts about Japanese art that I had tried to cram in at the Samurai exhibit. Right after the Linck, I put on my blinders and made a beeline for the swords. (Do not pass go, do not look at the Assyrian reliefs). I walked through for an hour jamming sword makers and Japanese names into my head. Kura=saddle (gorgeous mother of pearl), Kabuto=helmet (a particular one shaped as a crab reminded me of something I wore in The Little Mermaid), Tanto=small dagger (Is that why the Lone Ranger named him that).

Apparently, I must know everything about everything. I stared at Nimai-do gosoku armor - apparently the only armor in the joint made for a woman - and thought, "I should like this. This should interest me. It definitely is detailed." I even snuck a picture.

Then I saw a young man with his girlfriend talking excitedly about a curved blade in the corner. It didn't look that exciting to me. Maybe I just didn't know enough about it. If I just learned enough about the samurai, I could fully appreciate it. I started reading every word on the wall. The bow was the Samurai's primary weapon during the Heian and Kamakura periods. Must find when these periods were. Must walk to other wall and memorize the entire Japanese timeline. Must. Learn. Everything. AAAHHHHHHH! My head was going to explode. 

I left the swords and walked around for a breather. I walked to another room and saw a man and his little daughter sitting on the floor sketching a sculpture. They seemed so happy. And so unaware that there was so much to learn and they were running out of valuable museum time.

That's when I realized that perhaps the museum didn't have too much stuff. Maybe it's not the museum but my approach to the museum that was the problem. They were so happy just sketching that one piece. Enjoying.

Maybe spending a day at the Met doesn't mean seeing everything. Maybe it means spending a day appreciating a few pieces of art IN the Met. Will I remember in a year what kind of swords were made in the Edo period? Probably not. Will I think of the Linck when I see the mountains and be able to call to mind Rodin's Eternal Spring? Yes. That's worth the $10.

Comments / 0

Published by

Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA

More from Michael Loren

Comments / 0