A Few Pictures From the Met Spark Thoughts on the Definition of Art

I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today, while visiting New York City, and these are a few things I took pictures of. My main draw was seeing the special exhibit “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” (there through the end of May), which was neat because it had some French portraits from the 1800s next to the actual dresses from the paintings, but they didn’t allow pictures in that gallery.

The Met really impresses me, because there are just so many amazing things there! You can focus just on your interests — Egyptian art, for instance, or modern works (which are defined as after 1920, which is within the last hundred years) — and still spend an entire day. Once you figure out the map system and the navigation, which for me is based around finding the three-digit numbers on the wall that tell you which gallery you’re in.

I arrived just before lunchtime, so I was greeted by a LOT of people on the steps. The gentlemen with their backs to the camera were entertaining the crowd with an a cappella version of “Up on the Roof”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art steps

Before I stopped for lunch at the American Wing Cafe, I took a picture of this light fixture inside a courtyard area. This is one of two that stood outside the museum for years. Also of note: the facade behind it used to be the front of a bank, but now it’s inside the Met (which surprised me when I stopped to think about it), to mark the entrance to the American art wing.

American Wing of the Met

Religious art is neat, especially when it’s as beautifully displayed as these stained glass windows. It’s a motivation that drove a lot of creation for a very long time.

Stained glass display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Another exhibit that I took in was “After Photoshop: Manipulated Photography in the Digital Age”, a collection of photographs created through computer technology. Here was the one that stood out, in that it combined a model with art manipulation to look like manga:

Manga-like photo at the Met

I neglected to take any pictures in the gallery of another special exhibit, “Plain or Fancy? Restraint and Exuberance in the Decorative Arts”. That one was a bit more interactive, encouraging the formation of the viewer’s own opinions and illustrating through contrast how definitions can change over time. It was neat, because I like relativism.

Overall, and getting back to this post title, once I saw how many different objects were in the museum, I realized that almost anything, particularly given enough time, could be art. I really enjoyed seeing the Impressionist paintings in the special exhibit — although it surprised me that I liked the lesser-known names more than the works by the better-known Monet and Degas (Also cool: they had paintings of a particular model and others BY her. Yay for women artists!) — but I more enjoyed seeing the crafts and design objects, like this wacky foam chair.

Foam chair at the Met

Maybe it was just that I was getting tired, but that looked like it would be surprisingly comfy. More to the point, I like thinking about the effort someone put into making something for whatever purpose: ornamentation, worship, functional use. Putting all these objects from so many time periods under one (gigantic) roof was very impressive and illustrates just how wide-ranging the definition of art is. Anything can be art, particularly if you give it enough time.

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