Recent Museum Adventures: Art of the Arab Lands at the Met.

After about eight years of renovations, the Met opened fifteen !! new galleries all dedicated to art of the Arab lands. They are divided according to time and place. I've been waiting since last winter for this occasion and it did not disappoint.

15 permanent galleries
19,000 square feet of space
13 centuries represented
1,200 objects on view (and all of them are on the Met's website!)
10% of the entire museum collection

Alex and I, with about five hundred other people, had such a fun time wandering through all of these rooms. The energy was just fantastic, like Christmas morning anticipation. I didn't even mind that it was so crowded. I was just happy that everyone was so appreciative, interested, and excited. Anyway, it would be impossible to really get to know all of these works of art in one, or even two or three visits. Knowing this, we took our time breathing in the rich atmosphere instead of pushing through trying to reach each piece. Every few minutes one of us would stumble upon something extraordinary for sharing. I was surprised that I was so into the rug collections. Especially the one pictured below. The colors and ornamental compositions are breathtaking and it goes on for miles!

 Spanish Ceiling and a selection of rugs in Gallery 459.

Detail of the inlaid wood ceiling.

 Gallery 456 Moroccan Court, hand built by a team of artists from Fez.

Admiring the Zoomorphic Incense Burner, Iran, Seljuk Period, 1040-1196, pierced and engraved Bronze.

Persian Tombstone with Mihrab, 12th c., Marble.

18th c. Damascus Room with fountain in the forefront, Syria.
Gallery 463 Mughal South Asia (16th-19th centuries)

Fruit Bat Painter attributed to circle of Bhwani Das India, Calcutta, ca. 1777-82 Pencil, ink, and opaque watercolor on paper.

Before we left the museum we walked through some of the Asian galleries since I had been teaching Eastern art for the last few weeks. I don't think I'd ever really spent any time in those galleries before, so I'm glad I finally made it. We also breezed through Ancient Greece where I nearly fell over when I saw this. 

 Dipylon Vase Dipylon Master, from Dipylon Cemetery, c.750 BCE. AKA Funerary Krater.

This vessel, from the Geometric Period of Ancient Greece, shows a cremation ritual and the response of the attendants. The top register, center, features a lone horizontal figure framed by a checkerboard pattern burial shroud. This is the deceased on their funeral pyre. On either side are mourners raising their arms in agony. Though the figures are abstract, comprised of geometric shapes hence the name of the period, the tone of the krater is clear. This work of art is important because it marks a period of transition in the treatment and expression of death in culture. Prior to this time period focus was on the needs of the deceased, art was made to please them in the afterlife and show how wonderful they were while alive. But now we see the perspective of those still alive; the experience of the mourners.

I don't know why seeing this moved me the way it did. There are dozens of Greek vessels and I've never been especially drawn to them, but for some reason this one is special. More than the others it presents a very honest and personal moment. I think the abstract quality even enhances that, because it's as though the artist wasn't sure how to express the feeling, but felt compelled to do so in whatever possible way. It's larger than I expected. The repetition of the raised arms succeeds in commanding attention. 

Anticipating my hunger schedule and museum fatigue, Alex had put together a taste of the Upper East Side. We had poppyseed pastries at a Hungarian cafe, impeccable tuna semplici at a seriously delicious Italian cafe full of energy, good looking Europeans and fancy UES ladies. I swear I saw Joan Rivers there! We made eye contact and I nearly tripped. Finally we sampled the best Madeleines around at Daniel Boulud's posh Bar Pleiades. Long gone are the days when, starving and impecunious, I dined exclusively at my 8th Avenue deli for deeply satisfying and ridiculously cheap (vegetarian) bagel sandwiches. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a beautiful day in New York...
    (also for a picture of the bat flasher)