TheMet150: “Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe”

Between 1550 and 1750, nearly every royal family in Europe assembled vast collections of exquisite and entertaining objects. Lavish public spending and the display of precious metals were important expressions of power, and possessing artistic and technological innovations conveyed status. In fact, advancements in art, science, and technology were often prominently showcased in elaborate court entertainments that were characteristic of the period. Opening November 25, Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe (November 25, 2019–March 1, 2020, The Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 999, Iris and Gerald B. Cantor Exhibition Hall, Floor 2) will explore the complex ways in which the wondrous objects collected and displayed by early modern European monarchs expressed these rulers’ ability to govern. Making Marvels is organized by Wolfram Koeppe, the Marina Kellen French Curator in The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

Gerhard Emmoser (German, active 1556–84). Celestial globe with clockwork, 1579. Partially gilded silver, gilded brass (case); brass, steel (movement). Overall: 10 3/4 × 8 × 7 1/2 in. (27.3 × 20.3 × 19.1 cm); Diameter of globe: 5 1/2 in. (14 cm). Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (17.190.636)

The exhibition will feature approximately 170 objects—including clocks, automata, furniture, scientific instruments, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, print media, and more—from The Met collection and more than 50 lenders. A number of these works have never been displayed in the United States. Among the many exceptional loans will be silver furniture from the Esterházy Treasury; the largest flawless natural green diamond in the world, weighing 41 carats and in its original 18th-century setting; the alchemistic table bell of Emperor Rudolf II; a large wire-drawing bench made for Elector Augustus of Saxony; a rare example of an early equation clock by Jost Bürgi; and a reconstruction of a late 18th-century semi-automaton chess player, known as “The Turk,” that once famously caught Napoleon Bonaparte cheating.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, commented: “On a regular basis, news about the latest technological devices and their astonishing capabilities both fascinates and delights us. These familiar feelings echo those of princely patrons in centuries past who desired to possess and display the most marvelous artistic creations and inventions, made of the most precious and unusual materials and incorporating the newest scientific information.

Making Marvels is the first exhibition in North America to highlight the important conjunction of art, science, and technology with entertainment and display that was essential to court culture. The exhibition will be divided into four sections dedicated to the main object types featured in these displays: precious metalwork, Kunstkammer objects, princely tools, and self-moving clockworks or automata. (Kunstkammer is the term used in German-speaking provinces to describe these collections.)

In order to emphasize the scientific and technological content of these objects, the exhibition will begin by establishing the high level of material value and artisanal quality that princes had to meet in these displays of wealth and power. Visitors will encounter a set of superbly fashioned silver furniture that was considered the ultimate symbol of power, status, and wealth during the early modern period. The second section will be dedicated to the unusual objects of the Kunstkammer. These items were typically composed of newly discovered natural materials set in finely crafted mounts of silver or gold, whose highly inventive designs often embodied the most up-to-date knowledge of the natural world. Reflective of the multi-layered objects they housed, the Kunstkammer functioned simultaneously as places of amusement, research retreats for the investigation of nature, and political showcases for magnificence.

Knowledge of subjects such as natural philosophy, artisanal craftsmanship, and technology was considered tantamount to the practical wisdom, self-mastery, and moral virtue integral to successful governance. Pursuits such as metalsmithing, surveying, horology, astronomy, and turning at the lathe were part of the education and entertainment of princes in courts across Europe. The exhibition’s third section will present the scientific instruments, artisanal tools, and experimental apparatus used by rulers as they developed the technical skills so important to their princely identity.

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TheMet150 Celebration: Costume Institute’s Spring 2020 Exhibition to Present a Disruptive Timeline of Fashion History

Costume Institute Benefit on May 4 with Co-Chairs Nicolas Ghesquière, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and Anna Wintour

The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced that The Costume Institute’s Spring 2020 Exhibition will be About Time: Fashion and Duration, on view from May 7 through September 7, 2020 (preceded on May 4 by The Costume Institute Benefit). Presented in The Met Fifth Avenue’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, it will trace more than a century and a half of fashion, from 1870 to the present, along a disruptive timeline, as part of the Museum’s 150th anniversary celebration. Employing philosopher Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée—time that flows, accumulates, and is indivisible—the exhibition will explore how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate the past, present, and future. The concept will also be examined through the writings of Virginia Woolf, who will serve as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibition. Michael Cunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Hours, which was inspired by Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, will write a new short story for the exhibition catalogue that reflects on the concept of duration.

Surreal, David Bailey (British, born 1938), 1980; Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © David Bailey

The exhibition will feature approximately 160 examples of women’s fashion dating from 1870—the year of The Met’s founding and the start of a decade that witnessed the development of a standardized time system—to the present. The majority of objects in the show will come from The Costume Institute’s collection, including gifts made as part of The Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative in celebration of the Museum’s 150th anniversary.

A linear chronology of fashion comprised predominantly of ensembles in black will run through the exhibition reflecting the progressive timescale of modernity, and bringing into focus the fast, fleeting rhythm of fashion. Unlike traditional chronologies, which reduce the history of fashion to a limited number of decade-defining silhouettes, this timeline will be presented as a ceaseless continuum that is more complete and comprehensive in scope. Interrupting this timeline will be a series of counter-chronologies composed of predominantly white ensembles that pre-date or post-date those in black, but relate to one another through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration. For example, a black silk faille princess-line dress from the late 1870s will be paired with an Alexander McQueenBumster” skirt from 1995, and a black silk velvet bustle ensemble from the mid-1880s will be juxtaposed with a Comme des GarçonsBody Meets Dress – Dress Meets Body” dress from 1997.

The Clock, Sarah Moon (French, born 1941), 1999; Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Sarah Moon

The exhibition will conclude with a section on the future of fashion, linking the concept of duration to debates about longevity and sustainability.

This exhibition will consider the ephemeral nature of fashion, employing flashbacks and fast-forwards to reveal how it can be both linear and cyclical,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “As such, the show will present a nuanced continuum of fashion over the Museum’s 150-year history.”

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Receives Exceptional Bequest from Jayne Wrightsman, Trustee Emerita and Generous Benefactor

The historic bequest includes over $80 million and more than 375 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, decorative art objects, and rare books

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today (November 13, 2019) an exceptional bequest of over 375 works from the late Jayne Wrightsman (1919–2019), Trustee Emerita and one of the most generous Benefactors in the Museum’s history. The bequest includes significant gifts to the departments of Drawings and Prints, European Paintings, and European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, as well as to the Department of Asian Art, the Department of Islamic Art, and The Watson Library. In total, Jayne and her husband Charles Wrightsman (1895–1986) have given more than 1,275 works to The Met.

Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO, states: “Jayne and Charles Wrightsman served as model patrons and standard-bearers for a generation of donors. Their legendary eye for art was exceeded in magnitude only by their unwavering dedication to The Met collection, galleries, and staff. They truly became part of the Museum’s family, and we are eternally grateful for the infinite ways they profoundly impacted—and will continue to impact—this institution.

Max Hollein, Director, states: “Jayne Wrightsman’s extraordinary bequest is a capstone to more than half a century’s worth of inspired acts of generosity. Nearly every aspect of the Museum has benefitted enormously from the Wrightsmans’ devoted patronage. They have enriched the lives of countless visitors to The Met through their gifts of rare, beautiful, and priceless works of art, and their legacy will long be remembered and celebrated by all. The Met would not be what it is today without Jayne and Charles Wrightsman.”

In addition to this gift, Jayne made provisions for substantial additional funding to the existing Wrightsman Fund, of which over $80 million has already been received by The Met. The fund supports ongoing acquisitions of works of art from Western Europe and Great Britain created during the period from 1500 to 1850. The support comes at a time of financial stability for the Museum, as described in its recently released Annual Report for fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019). The Wrightsman bequest helped the Museum achieve a total of $211.5 million in new gifts and pledges in FY19. The bequest will also be reflected in the current fiscal year that will end on June 30, 2020, and in years to come as the Wrightsman Fund continues to receive funds that are an ongoing part of the bequest.

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Exhibition To Watch in 2020: Making The Met, 1870–2020

In 2020, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its founding with a dynamic range of exhibitions, programs, and public events. Highlights of the year will include the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020, on view March 30–August 2; the opening of the newly renovated and reimagined galleries devoted to British decorative arts and design in March; the display of new gifts throughout the Museum; a three-day-long celebration in June; and a story-collecting initiative. (More information is available at www.metmuseum.org/150.)

The centerpiece of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 150th anniversary celebration will be the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020. On view March 30–August 2, 2020 in the Second Floor Tisch Galleries, the presentation is a museum-wide collaboration that will lead visitors on an immersive, thought-provoking journey through The Met’s history. Organized around transformational moments in the evolution of the Museum’s collection, buildings, and ambitions, the exhibition will reveal the visionary figures and cultural forces that propelled The Met in new directions, from its founding in 1870 to the present day.

Making The Met, 1870–2020 is made possible by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. Lead corporate sponsorship is provided by Bank of America.

The exhibition will feature more than 250 works of art of nearly every type from The Met collection, including visitor favorites and fragile treasures that can only be displayed from time to time. The selection will span millennia—from an imposing seated statue of the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut (ca. 1479–1458 B.C.) to Jean Pucelle’s Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux (ca. 1324–28) to El Anatsui’s monumental Dusasa II (2007)—and media—from Michelangelo’s sheet of Studies for the Libyan Sibyl to Degas’s bronze Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer to Edward Steichen’s photographs of The Flatiron. Its global reach will extend from Asia, with exceptional works such as Mi Fu’s Night-Shining White, to Africa, with the Fang Seated Female Figure from a Reliquary Ensemble, and the Americas, with the Crown of the Andes.

Making The Met, 1870–2020 will explore a range of intriguing topics, such as the educational and aspirational ideals of The Met’s founders; the discoveries and dilemmas of excavation; the competing forces of progressivism and nationalism that led to the founding of the American Wing; the role of the Museum during wartime; and the evolution at The Met’s centennial toward a truly global approach to collecting. Rarely seen archival photographs, innovative digital features, and stories of both behind-the-scenes work and the Museum’s community outreach will enhance this unique experience.

Young 19th- and 21st-century viewers gaze at Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, by Emanuel Leutze. Left: Archival photo from The Met archives. Right: Photo by Roderick Aichinger. Composite image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

The exhibition will be organized in ten chronological sections around a central axis, called The Street, that will situate visitors in time and offer glimpses into the inner workings of The Met and, exceptionally, out into Central Park.

The first section, The Founding Decades, will transport visitors back to the Museum’s early years. The Met was founded without art, a building, or professional staff—it had only the vision of a group of businessmen, civic leaders, and artists determined to elevate the cultural landscape of the city of New York. This gallery will reveal the initial priorities for the collection, including antiquities excavated from Cyprus by The Met’s first director, General Luigi Palma di Cesnola, and European old master paintings from the founding purchase of 1871. It will also call attention to the contributions of artist trustees, such as Frederic Edwin Church, and the surprising diversity of early acquisitions, from Toltec reliefs to Japanese armor.

In the early 20th century, The Met sought to reach audiences beyond the traditional elite museumgoers and created study rooms to inspire a new generation of designers, craftspeople, and students. In keeping with an increasingly encyclopedic vision for the collection, ephemeral and utilitarian objects were acquired in addition to masterpieces. The exhibition’s second gallery, Art for All, will spotlight three collections—musical instruments, textiles, and prints and drawings—and the visionary curators, Frances Morris and William Ivins, who oversaw them.

In the same era, under the guiding influence of J. Pierpont Morgan, president of the Board of Trustees, The Met began to aspire to the model of the great collections formed by European royalty and aristocracy. Princely Aspirations will feature objects prized for their rarity and beauty that were given to the Museum by tycoons of the Gilded Age, such as Benjamin Altman and Collis Huntington. Highlights include Johannes Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Lute, Antonio Rossellino’s Madonna and Child with Angels, 18th-century decorative arts that once adorned French palaces, and a Kunstkammer of precious objects. This section will look ahead to more recent benefactors, such as Robert Lehman and Charles and Jayne Wrightsman, who carried forward this spirit of collecting.

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Max Hollein Named Next Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Met President and CEO Dan Weiss announced today that Max Hollein has been elected the tenth Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Widely regarded as one of the world’s most successful and respected museum directors,” Mr. Weiss said, “Max has demonstrated exceptional skill at building collections, diversifying audiences, broadening institutional development, and leading complex museums, with a range of collections, for more than 15 years. I am confident that ours will be a strong and fruitful partnership, and that Max will help advance The Met’s role as a global leader for culture and the arts.”

Mr. Hollein is currently the Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,

Max Hollein

Max Hollein, recently appointed tenth Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

which includes the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. He started his museum career here in New York at the Guggenheim Museum and previously led three of Germany’s most prominent art museums: the Schirn Kunsthalle, which focuses on modern and contemporary art; the Städel Museum, which houses one of Germany’s finest collections of old master paintings and nineteenth-century and modern art; and the Liebieghaus, whose world-renowned collection of sculpture ranges from ancient Egypt to Neoclassicism. He will assume the directorship of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the summer of 2018.

The Met is recognized around the world as a leader in the museum field by virtue of its exceptional collection, groundbreaking scholarship, and educational outreach,” Mr. Hollein said. “Founded on the idea of bringing the cultures of the world to one place, The Met remains a unique place where visitors can experience firsthand the artistic achievements of humankind. We now have many other ways to disseminate cultural education and knowledge, and an obligation to do so. Celebrating artistic excellence goes hand in hand with broadening the stories we tell about the works of art in our care. Together with Dan, I hope to provide the guidance, energy, and support needed to lead this beloved institution into the future and inspire its audiences in New York and around the world.