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The works displayed in the American Wing are as diverse and unique as the country that produced them. From traditional oil portraits to frontier furniture to the entire neo-classical facade of a bank the wing, like America, defies easy classification and challenges Old World notions of creativity, craftsmanship and the definition of art.
The oldest objects in the museum--and indeed some of the oldest human-made objects in the world--are in the Ancient Near Eastern galleries. The first cities and empires of Mesopotamia--predating the Ancient Greeks and even Egyptians--left behind fascinating relics of their civilizations. The chronology of art begins here.
The favorite gallery of nine-year-olds everywhere there is much more to the Arms and Armor gallery than just fantasies of knights and ladies. The collection covers not just Medieval Europe, but includes armor from around the world and represents the heights of the art and craftsmanship of weapons of war.
The opening of the renovated Islamic Art gallery was the biggest New York City museum event of 2011 and could not have been more timely coinciding with the beginning of the Arab Spring. The art and culture of the Islamic world continues to be key to understanding a region and religion relevant to so many contemporary issues.
The southern wing of the Met's first floor is a catch-all for cultures not represented in other collections. Geographically, over half the world is covered by these galleries: the entire continents of Africa, North and South America as well as the Pacific Islands. Most of the artifacts come from indigenous populations and pre-European civilizations.
The Met’s attempt to cram the varied histories and cultures of all of ‘Asia’ into a single wing is valiant, but ultimately an impossible task: the ancient diversity of the massive region cannot be captured. Something will be missed. But few institutions come closer to a comprehensive view of Asian cultures than the Met.
If it is open, the Cantor Roof Garden should be either your first or last stop on a visit to the Met. The rotating annual commissions are as much a fixture of summer in New York as the U.S. Open. The installations vary significantly from year to year, but the view of the park and the city is consistently breathtaking.
This powerhouse department of the Met continues to grow in influence and scope. Relegation to the basement gallery space does not reflect the importance of this department to the museum and indeed the city. Most blockbuster exhibits at the Met in recent years spawned from the Costume Institute. Not always open, but when it is there is likely a crowd.
The smallest amount of gallery space is devoted to the department with the largest number of works, so revisiting the hallway dedicated to Drawings and Prints is a must on every trip. With a collection of over 17,000 drawings and well over a million prints, the rotating exhibits have no shortage of thematic opportunities.
Save for Cairo and the British Museum there exists no greater collection of Egyptian Art and artifacts than the Met’s. Delve deep into the long history and rich culture of one of the defining civilizations of the Ancient World. The collection is much more than just mummies and scarabs.
Bridging the gap between the Met's Renaissance and Classical paintings and its Modern collection is the European Gallery focusing on the 19th and early-20th century. Here are the giants of art history and examples of the revolutionary styles they invented. Getting lost in this detailed collection is an inviting way to spend an afternoon.
The Met's outstanding collection of European paintings is split into two major sections, roughly divided by the turn of the 19th-century. The post-19th-century collection contains the crowd-pleasing, recognizable names. However, a careful tour of the pre-19th-century galleries allows you to watch Renaissance unfold across Europe. Start here.
Art succumbs to excess in the galleries dedicated to European (or rather, aristocratic) furniture and decor. The museum’s greatest sculptures are found in this section, as well as its most extravagant period rooms and luxurious furnishings. Get a taste of royal living with an afternoon seeped in jewels and gold.
While not technically a separate artistic department, the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a required stop on even the most cursory tour of the museum. Look beyond the admission desks, information kiosks and coat checks to appreciated this magnificent introductory space. Best appreciated from the balconies above.
The soul of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is its Greek and Roman Wing. This gallery puts the rest of the museum in perspective. European and American art is directly descended from this. Cultures outside the Mediterranean are best contrasted with this. Over 1,000 years of art and artifacts are on display, tracing the rise and fall of some of the world's most influential cultures.
Consider the galleries of Medieval Art an advertisement for the Cloisters. If you like these galleries, you’ll love the larger collection up the Hudson. If you don’t like these galleries, still take up a trip up to the Cloisters: it’s amazing.
Long considered the weakest link in the Met's sprawling departments, the Modern collection still rivals everyone but the MoMA. Contemporary exhibits may not be as daring as other museums but the permanent collection has representative pieces from all of the artists you would expect for a world-class 20th-century collection.
The Met's collection of instruments provides a fascinating respite from the traditional galleries. The instrument galleries have recently partially reopened after having been closed since 2016 as part of a much-needed renovation. Stop by to see familiar instruments produced beautifully but more for the exotic instruments you have never heard of.
Like the nearby Drawings and Prints galleries, the Met's collection of Photography is presented as rotating exhibits featuring a blend of borrowed works and the museum's permanent collection. These exhibits are consistently popular and accessible, but barely scratch the surface of the full collection.
Unique at the Met, the Lehman Collection defies the Met’s usual systematic categorization of works by region, media and time and instead celebrates the cumulative work of a dedicated private art collector. A spacious wing was added to the Met in 1975 to display the collection as a collection.