If you pay the entry fee for your visit to The Cloisters (you can choose not to donate, but if you do I think it’s about $27) then you get free entry to the Met on the same day. So after catching the slow, slow bus from the stop outside The Cloisters (if you are reading this and thinking of doing the same thing I urge you to take the slightly longer walk back to the subway as the train is about 3 times faster) to Central Park, where the gallery is located. If you catch the train you get more time to see the gallery and also leave it before the closing time of 5:30, which is when twenty million people hit the streets of New York trying to get home. I recommend not trying to use the subway during peak hour unless you like being rammed up against strangers. Which probably does appeal to some people but they’re the ones making it even less appealing for the rest of us.
On arrival, the facade of the building is extremely impressive and imposing – very similar in some respects to the British National Gallery. Unlike the BNG though, there is a solid line of hot dog vendors right out the front.
The Met houses a huge and diverse collection of art. After looking at the map we (Sean, Luke and myself) agreed on a meeting time out the front and then wandered around, heading for the things that most interested us.
My strategy with galleries is generally to walk into each room, pick one or two works in each that catch my eye and spend a bit of time studying those, rather than trying to see every work in detail. If it coincides with the placement of a bench, all the better;).
Our first stop was the armoury. There were suits of armour, both dress and field, for people and several suits of horse armour. There were a few Japanese suits and even one Indian. Lots of swords, guns and other pieces made it a very interesting display.
Next Luke and I wandered to the Japanese section. There we found my favourite single piece of the day, a taxidermied deer encased in clear glass spheres. It looked a little like a giant Christmas tree decoration, very light and ethereal. I don’t generally find Asian art very interesting (old art, I mean – new is a whole different story) and there were many examples of calligraphy, which are hard to appreciate without some sort of background knowledge. It was a shame there were no textiles displayed because I really love Asian fabric designs.
Next we moved onto the modern American artists and they were brilliant. I don’t remember the names of any of the artists but there were many stunning paintings in realist and impressionistic styles. The names of art periods in the US seem to vary from Europe so I’m not entirely sure what to call them but there were incredible portraits and landscapes that Luke and I both admired greatly. We had a bit of a chat with one of the guards about how the gallery moves paintings that are bigger than any of the doorways. I didn’t realise oil paintings rolled up so easily.
We walked quickly through the post modern and ancient art sections and the only other art that really sticks in my mind was a very large Tiffany window that was a rainbow of colours and depicted a fantasy landscape scene. The gallery had it mounted so it was back lit and very impressive… almost gaudy in fact.
By the end of the day my feet were absolutely killing me. There’s something about shuffling around galleries that makes my feet more tired than walking many more kilometres at a fast pace. In fact I’m finding New York has been harder on my feet that anywhere else we’ve been. My ankles, for the first time in my life, are starting to ache every day and I think it’s from rushing up and down all the concrete subway stairs. Then last night we were one of the last groups into a comedy show and had to stand for the whole thing – after being on our feet since lunch time. I think I spent about 10 hours on my feet that day. I used to do that at work nearly every day (I’m a teacher) but not having any carpet to soften the blow makes a huge difference. Anyway, we’ve lain in bed half the morning today. Hopefully that will help!