Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Grand and Grandeur: Part I

Where to begin?

The new Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum are grand. What a treasure trove. What an encyclopedic collection. What can I possibly say that might do them justice? Seriously.

As I walked around like a kid in a candy shop at the press preview yesterday (yes, the Met graciously invited me, the blogger, to the press preview [and I thank them]), I was initially overwhelmed. My eyes darting left and right, up and down. Argghhh! Where to begin? How do I most efficiently spend the precious few hours I have to absorb what they've accomplished in this renovation? There was too much on display.

Actually, that was my first reaction: there was too much on display. All the promotional materials I'd seen up to this point featured single pieces, one peeking out from a row of columns, suggesting a much more sparse installation than viewers will find. I couldn't focus. So I did what I always do when I'm overwhelmed: I sought an anchor. If I can only find the Estruscan chariot, I thought, I can calm down and take it more slowly. But it wasn't easy to locate. Eventually, after visting every gallery on the first floor, I realized it must be on the new mezzanine and made my way up there.

Finally, I found it, the 6th Century BC, newly restored, bronze and ivory stunner. In a word, the chariot is spectacular. My lousy snapshot doesn't do it justice, but that's OK, you really have to see it for yourself. It took my breath away and did the trick. I calmed down.

Making my way forward, though, I encountered the Greek and Roman Study Collection, which I have to confess having flown through. It's an impressive collection of over 3,400 objects (covering prehistoric Greece through late Roman), but so abundant they opted not to label each piece. Rather there are interactive wall monitors whereby you can find your object's label. I'm not so sure the back-and-forth of that wouldn't get tiring after a while, but the software is impressive:

Still, I wasn't ready to surrender my new-found focus and decided to press on. Down stairs again, in the Hellenistic Treasury (or was it upstairs in the Special Exhibitions gallery? I can't remember now) were these examples of spectacular arm bling:

Image from Met's press kit: Pair of armbands with triton and tritoness holding Erotes. Greek, Hellenistic, ca. 200 B.C. Gold, triton: h. 5-3/4 in. (14.6 cm), tritoness: 6-1/4 in. (15.9 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1956 (56.11.5, .6) cat. # 229. Click image to see larger.

They set me back on track and the rest of the time I was in the groove, moving from jaw-dropper to jaw-dropper, loving every moment of it. The center of this new renovation is the truly, er, august Leon Levy and Shelby White Court. From its gorgeous marble floors to the two-story atrium, to the natural light that floods the court, it's pitch perfect. Again, there's lots to see there, but if you don't try to take it all in at once, as I first did, you'll find plenty of space to be awed. Here's a shot of the court from the mezzanine:

That's all the time we have for today, I'm afraid. We'll pick up where we left off tomorrow.

UPDATE: Oh no...I almost forgot The Quiz. Personally, I'm only now getting over being utterly hopeless at distinguishing between Greek sculpture and the Roman ones and/or copies (and let's face it, it's not always possible for mere mortals), but there is a perfect installation for testing your own perceptions in the new galleries. I apologize for doing with with such a lousy photo (but given that there's no cash prize for winning [just a toast in the gallery if you stop in], I won't sweat it), but can you identify the origin (Greek or Roman) of the following:

OK, so it's impossible from this photo, but at least, when visiting yourself, take advantage of this row of heads to test your own theories on the differences.

Labels: greek and roman galleries, metropolitan museum


Anonymous bambino said...

me like like it


4/17/2007 10:08:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

can you identify the origin (Greek or Roman) of the following...

C'mon, Edward, that's easy. The Roman heads are newer. They're the ones with the noses :)

4/17/2007 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous JL said...

I couldn't focus.

I frequently have this problem at the Met--it's just an embarrassment of riches. I'm thinking especially of the room with god knows how many Degas bronzes, or the one nearby with a slew of his paintings as well. Other areas it can be easier to get a grip, but some just escape me.

Any chance of a larger version of the last photograph? I'd be willing to take a stab at identifying any Greek versus Roman pieces, but I can't hardly see any of them as it is.

4/17/2007 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I frequently have this problem at the Met--it's just an embarrassment of riches.

That's so funny JL. That's the exact phrase that sprung to mind when I first entered the new galleries. In fact, I almost used that as the title for this post.

I found the promotional image so utterly captivating (to think they've installed these treasures in a setting of quiet calm...wow...what a gift), but realized that my attraction to the dramatic gesture hardly serves the interest and in particular educational interest of the general public. I did find I was able to focus after a while (the image at the top of the Caligula bust makes everything disappear as you approach it...simply awesome).

Any chance of a larger version of the last photograph?

This is so lame, I know (mostly because I have larger versions of all the other images), but in preparing/cropping that one for the quiz, I accidently saved it in the smaller format, so I apologize, but I can't retrieve the more detailed size now, making it a fairly useless quiz, I recognize... my very very bad. ;-(

4/17/2007 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

computer says

bery bery bad

4/17/2007 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger rb said...

fabulous, E_ W, love the tour of _your_ impressions of this important collection (dizzy and overloaded, to centered and methodical, to playful and analytical, and finally folding sweetly into an endearing mea culpa)

4/17/2007 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear….!

We are in trouble.

If a discussion about the Met doesn’t include terms like; Western canon, compartmentalization, propaganda, placement, supremacy, education, assimilation, gentrification, and plain and simple, separated and not equal; we are wasting our time.

4/18/2007 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"Wasting our time" toward the realization of whose agenda exactly, anonymous?

4/18/2007 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No agenda.

Today in the NYT-
"In restoring the court, Mr. Roche said, he had to work out “exactly what moment in Roman architecture” to honor. “We decided to go from B.C. to A.D., when the Roman republic was drifting into becoming an empire,” Mr. Roche said. “It was also the time of Augustus and a great time for culture — Horace and Virgil and Ovid.”

This is historically significant in many ways.
-Placing the objects within a context.
-Augustus is the first Roman "master" of political propaganda.

And much more...

4/18/2007 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

OK, but rather than work in Western canon, compartmentalization, supremacy, assimilation, gentrification, separated and not equal and a whole host of other very loaded and divisive terms, you opted for "And much more..." which illustrates that the idea that, unless one combines each and every possible greivance into each and every possible discussion, we're wasting our time is not only rather cumbersome, but antithetical to any space to enjoy the experience at the times when that's appropriate, no?

4/18/2007 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to say that you are wasting our time, Ed W.

I meant art historians in the past.

4/18/2007 04:56:00 PM  

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