Like other Gilded Age billionaires, John Pierpont Morgan spent a significant portion of his fortune collecting art and artifacts from around the world. While much of the artwork in his collection ended up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where he served as president), Morgan was an avid collector of books and documents which he stored in his private midtown library. After his death, his son placed the impressive collection in the public trust by organizing the Pierpont Morgan Library. Exhibits tend towards the literary, though old master sketches, musical manuscripts, and early photographs are common subjects of small shows.
No price is too high for an object of unquestioned beauty and known authenticity.
What You Will See
The original library, commissioned by Morgan at the turn of the century, is one of the great interior spaces of New York City and a worthy home for objects central to humanity's cultural heritage. The museum's campus has expanded over the years, complimenting the original Gilded Age rooms with airy, modern additions and expanded gallery space, all to highlight the vast collection of books, prints, drawings, photographs and historical documents. Indicative of the depth of Mr. Morgan's collection, the Library is home to three of the 49 known copies of the Gutenberg Bible (the British Library only has two).
Why You Should Go
Books, documents, and prints can be less interesting subjects for a casual visitor than art, but the historical significance of the Morgan's collection, together with careful curation makes the pieces accessible and engaging. With original work from names like Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Dickens, Bronte, Thoreau, Chopin, and Mozart, the library is one of the great repositories of Western Culture (with significant Near Eastern additions) and visitors can have a tour of the last few centuries of genius while contemplating the success and excess of capitalism that collected it.
The legendary artist Betye Saar turned 94 this year, but her popularity continues to grow. After a major exhibition last year at the MoMA, Saar returns to New York with a new exhibit at the Morgan. Saar consulted directly on the presentation of a series of workbooks and sketches together with the finished assemblages. While primarily a retrospective, new works by the artist are also on display in this timely and relevant show.
David Hockney is considered one of the most important British artists of the 20th century. Long known for his unique portraits and prints, this stunning new exhibit at the Morgan focuses instead on his abilities as a draftsman. These are not Hockney's most well-known works, but rather excerpts from his sketchbook and preparatory portraits in colored pencil, ink, and acrylics on paper. The Morgan excels at exploring the process artifacts of great modern and contemporary artists.
The youngest Bronte sister is the overdue focus of this small installation at the Morgan Library. After the Morgan held a large retrospective for Charlotte Bronte's 200th anniversary in 2016, the museum returns to the Bronte family to celebrate Anne's birthday. While less prolific than her sisters, critics hold Anne's achievements on par. See selections from the library's own holdings from Anne's short life.
The historical narrative behind this exhibition is more interesting than the collected works on display. Only recently have scholars become aware of the vast library collected by Claude III Laubespine, who, in sixteenth-century Burgandy, amassed one of the largest collections of ornamentally bound books. This exhibition reunites, for the first time in over 400 years, key examples from Laubespine's collection, which was scattered after his death at age 25.
This season's rotation from the Morgan Library's vast holdings include manuscripts from Mozart and Wagner compositions, an original quatro of King Lear, and a manuscript from Edgar Allan Poe. Set in one of the city's great interior spaces, surrounded by J.P. Morgan's floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, remember that these impressive selections represent just a sliver of the library's collections.
This small exhibit is made up of paintings gifted to the Morgan by Eugene V. Thaw. The collection highlights the striking beauty of small-scale landscapes painted by great European artists. Unlike the large-scale works commonly associate with sublimity, these smaller works were often produced outside, with the actual subject in view. It is an impressive collection of underappreciated works.