It’s difficult to imagine New York City without the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Occupying the eastern edge of Central Park, at 1000 Fifth Avenue, this gigantic treasure trove offers a comprehensive history of art, housing works from all around the globe, which date from prehistoric times all the way to the present day.
Here are ten interesting facts you may not know about the Met:
1. The oldest articles in the Met are Acheulian flints in the Egyptian collection–which occupies an incredible 40 galleries–and date from the Lower Paleolithic period (2.7 million to 300,000 years ago!)
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the USA, with its permanent collection boasting over two million pieces. The main museum site takes up a sprawling two million square feet and currently averages around five million visitors per year.
3. City funding paid for the construction of the museum, which started in 1874 and was completed in 1880. To this day, the city still pays the museum’s power bills, including heat and light, and contributes to security and maintenance bills too.
4. The Met’s branch museum, the Cloisters, was opened in 1938 and is dedicated entirely to medieval works of art. Much of the collection originally belonged to American sculptor, George Grey Barnard, but was purchased in 1925 by John D. Rockefeller Jr., specifically to donate to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
5. During World War II, there was such concern for the safety of the Met’s collection that the majority of the museum’s most important works were removed, transported to Pennsylvania and kept in a mansion for three years.
6. The Met’s free admission policy was introduced in 1939 by Francis Henry Taylor, who was the museum’s acting director at the time. To this day, there is no strict entry fee at the non-profit organization–only a suggested donation of $25.
7. Not everyone is satisfied with the Met’s world-famous art collection. In 1989, feminist art group, the Guerrilla Girls, distributed a poster that asked: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art?” and claimed that “less than five per cent of artists in the Modern Arts section are women, but 85 per cent of the nudes are female.”
8. The idea to establish the Met was first expressed at a prestigious meeting of prominent American business figures that took place in Paris in 1866. By the Spring of 1870, a Board of Trustees had been appointed and the New York Legislature had agreed to incorporate the Met, on the grounds that it must be an educational body that would benefit the general public.
9. The Met consistently struggled with financial issues and under-funding in its early years. That was until 1901, when New Jersey locomotive manufacturer Jacob S. Rogers died and left nearly $5 million to the museum, transforming the institution.
10. Some of the Met’s most famous pieces are Claude Monet’s enormous Water Lillies, Vincent Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Straw Hat and Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein.
Image courtesy of: Ben Sutherland