Met museum announces plans for 150th-anniversary year

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

NEW YORK – Today, The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced the key components of its 150th-anniversary celebration in 2020, including major gifts of art from around the world; exhibitions and displays that will examine art, history, and culture through spectacular objects; and dynamic programs that will engage The Met’s local and global communities. Highlights of the year include the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020, the opening of the newly renovated British Galleries, the display of new works of art given to the Museum in honor of its 150th anniversary, the launch of cross-cultural installations, a robust schedule of programs and events, and more.

Daniel H. Weiss, the Museum’s President and CEO, said, “As we celebrate this milestone, 150 years since our founding on April 13, 1870, we are grateful for the bold vision of our founders, who included a handful of New York City leaders and artists of the day. Over the course of the next 150 years, that vision grew into one of the most important cultural institutions in the world. This anniversary is an exciting moment to celebrate what The Met means to its audience, from the New Yorkers who enjoy the Museum regularly, to the millions of tourists who walk through our doors every year, to those who experience our offerings remotely. It is also an opportunity to reflect on our history, to plan thoughtfully for our future, and to say thank you.”

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, said, “The Museum’s anniversary is an occasion to celebrate this extraordinary institution, and appreciate the vibrancy and astounding depth and scope of its collection, scholarship, and programs. We are also thinking deeply about our responsibilities as stewards of this exceptional resource, our commitment to cultivating the understanding and appreciation of art, and the ways in which we can illuminate the connections within cultural histories. The Met strives to be a seminal encyclopedic museum—of the world, for the world, and in the world—and we are grateful to everyone who supports us in achieving that goal.”

Making The Met, 1870–2020

The centerpiece of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 150th anniversary celebration will be the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020. On view March 30–August 2, 2020, the presentation is a museum-wide collaboration that will lead visitors on an immersive, thought-provoking journey through The Met’s history. Organized around transformational moments in the evolution of the Museum’s collection, buildings, and ambitions, the exhibition will reveal the visionary figures and cultural forces that propelled The Met in new directions, from its founding in 1870 to the present day. It will feature more than 250 works of art of nearly every type from The Met collection, including visitor favorites and fragile treasures that can only be displayed from time to time.

Young 19th- and 21st-century viewers gaze at Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, by Emanuel Leutze. Left: Archival photo from The Met archives. Right: Photo by Roderick Aichinger. Composite image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A range of intriguing topics will be explored, such as the educational and aspirational ideals of The Met’s founders; the discoveries and dilemmas of excavation; the competing forces of progressivism and nationalism that led to the founding of the American Wing; the role of the Museum during wartime; and the evolution at The Met’s centennial toward a truly global approach to collecting. Rarely seen archival photographs, innovative digital features, and stories of both behind-the-scenes work and the Museum’s community outreach will enhance this unique experience. The exhibition will have an audio guide and be accompanied by a catalogue. More information is available at metmuseum.org/making-the-met.

Making The Met, 1870–2020 is made possible by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. Lead corporate sponsorship is provided by Bank of America. The catalogue is made possible by the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, and the Doris Duke Fund for Publications. Audio Guide supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

New Galleries for British Decorative Arts and Design

A highlight of The Met’s 150th anniversary will be the March 2 opening of the Museum’s newly installed Annie Laurie Aitken and Josephine Mercy Heathcote Galleries—11,000 square feet featuring almost 700 works of British decorative arts, design, and sculpture created between 1500 and 1900. The reimagined suite of 10 galleries (including three superb 18th-century interiors) will provide a fresh perspective on the period, focusing on its bold, entrepreneurial spirit and complex history. This new narrative will be evident in a gallery devoted to “Tea, Trade, and Empire,” which will explore the period’s commercial prosperity with a dazzling display of 100 English teapots while also examining the exploitation of both human and natural resources that accompanied that abundance. This is the first complete renovation of the galleries since they were established (Josephine Mercy Heathcote Gallery in 1987, Annie Laurie Aitken Galleries in 1995). The reopening will feature a large number of new acquisitions, particularly works from the 19th century that were purchased with this project in mind. A prominent new entrance will provide direct access from the galleries for medieval European art, creating a seamless transition from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. More information is available at metmuseum.org/British-Galleries.

A Chelsea porcelain teapot, circa 1760s; detail of installation taking place in the new British Galleries, opening March 2, 2020. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Funding for the renovation included leadership commitments from Maureen and Richard L. Chilton, Jr., Nancy and Howard S. Marks, the Estate of Marion K. Morgan, the Annie Laurie Aitken Charitable Trust, Irene Roosevelt Aitken, Mercedes T. Bass, Candace and Frederick W. Beinecke II and the Krugman Family, Drue Heinz, Alexia and David Leuschen, Annette de la Renta, Kimba and Frank E. Richardson, Denise and Andrew Saul, and Susan Weber.

Collections Initiative

The Met’s 150th anniversary is an exciting opportunity to further evolve the institution’s encyclopedic collection in all curatorial areas, with an eye toward capturing multiple historical narratives. The Museum has received hundreds of exceptional works from more than 100 generous collectors and supporters in honor of the 150th anniversary, ranging from important individual objects to large collections. These gifts and promised gifts will be displayed in galleries at The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters, and will be identified by special red labels.

Large gifts from individual donors will be featured in dedicated exhibitions. The Costume Institute exhibition In Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection (November 27, 2019–May 17, 2020) will feature nearly 80 of the 165 promised items from one of the finest private collections in the United States—a gift that will greatly enrich the Museum’s holdings of 20th-century fashion. Opening December 2, 2019, Aesthetic Splendors: Highlights from the Gift of Barrie and Deedee Wigmore will showcase nearly 50 of the 88 works of American art promised by the Wigmores, including decorative arts of the Aesthetic Movement and Hudson River School paintings. Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection (March 10–June 28, 2020) will celebrate the remarkable ascendancy of photography over the last one hundred years through the promised gift of over 60 extraordinary photographs from Museum Trustee Ann Tenenbaum.

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954). Untitled Film Still #48, 1979. Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm). Promised gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee

The collection is particularly notable for the breadth and depth of works by women artists such as Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, and Helen Levitt. At The Met Breuer, From Géricault to Rockburne: Selections from the Michael and Juliet Rubenstein Gift (January 29–March 29, 2020) will highlight approximately 50 of the 160 promised works from the Rubensteins’ collection of mostly drawings and watercolors, ranging from an early 19th-century drawing by the French artist Théodore Géricault to a mixed-media work on paper from 2019 by Dorothea Rockburne.

Among the new works that will enhance and expand the stories told in the galleries are a Tibetan war mask from Steve Kossak; 82 works, mostly hanging Japanese scrolls, from Cheney and Mary Cowles; Ludovico Carracci’s The Denial of Saint Peter (ca. 1616), from Mark Fisch; six wooden African sculptures dating to the late 19th-early 20th century, from Javier Peres and Benoit Wolfrom; and a Greek marble statue of a panther from Nanette Kelekian. Recent modern and contemporary gifts include Pablo Picasso’s Seated Female Nude (Femme Nue Assise), from Leonard A. Lauder; Robert Gober’s Untitled [Butter Churn], from Trustee Aaron Fleischman; and Sam Gilliam’s State, from the artist himself.

Cross-Cultural Installations

On March 4, 2020, The Met will launch a new series of installations drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection called Crossroads, which will explore specific themes that span different cultures. The initiative will emphasize intersecting narratives in human creativity and will underscore the multiple ways in which a work of art may be understood. The first iteration of Crossroads will consist of three installations: “Power and Piety” in the Medieval Sculpture Hall (Gallery 305); “Empires and Emporia” in the Asian Art Galleries Astor Forecourt (Gallery 209); and “Mythical Beasts” at the intersection of Greek and Roman Art, Ancient Near Eastern Art, and Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia (Galleries 173–176). Further details will be available in early 2020.

Crossroads is made possible in part by Barbara A. Wolfe.

Events and Programs

To mark its anniversary, The Met will host a series of special events and offer an array of public programs throughout the year.

On April 13, 2020—exactly 150 years since the Museum was incorporated—City and State officials will gather for a commemorative program and ceremonial cake cutting. There will be musical performances in the Great Hall throughout the day, presented in partnership with music programs from around New York City’s five boroughs.

A three-day-long celebration will be held from Thursday, June 4, through Saturday, June 6. A fundraising gala will take place Thursday night at The Met Fifth Avenue, followed by a dance party made possible by the Museum’s individual and corporate supporters. Friday will begin with a scholarly symposium titled “Shifting Perspectives on Art and Museums.” On Friday evening, visitors may take part in a range of experiences designed for adults (tours, workshops, performances, art making, and more), featuring artists, authors, personalities, and curators. The festivities will continue Saturday morning with an outdoor, artist-led event. Saturday will conclude with activities on The Met’s plaza and throughout the Museum.

Click to find out more about the Met’s 150th-anniversary year.

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