An after hours tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
After the crowds
What makes visiting a museum truly memorable? Is it the art? Is it the building? Or is it something else, drowned out by the crowds that we rarely get a chance to experience?
Painter Claude Renoir said, “Art is meant to be lived with.”
But how is possible to live with art when there is such a steady stream of visitors descending upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art each day? Viewing art at any of the major museums is more like an amusement park packed with lines, tour groups, and iPhone selfies. While it is great to see a public interest in the arts, it feels like millions of visitors are going through the motions without ever experiencing the art as an artist or a collector. If you are very quiet and away from the flurry of people, good art is like a whisper. It never says too much, but what it says may stick with you forever.
On a few occasions, private tours of the Met offer viewers the opportunity to experience art as it was intended. I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to walk the halls of the museum and spend time with my favorite works of art in peace and quiet.
I was told, “You can go anywhere you like, you can take as many pictures as you like and there is no rush.” It was impossible to hold back a smile.
In truth, I took very few photos. We started in the Egyptian wing at the Temple of Dendur. In the absence of people the space felt much larger, almost empty. The sun was on its way down, leaving a soft northern light to fill the room. All that could be heard was the sweep of a dry mop and our shoes as they echoed throughout the gallery. It started to sink in that we were the only ones around. From there, we were expected to visit the special exhibitions.
Typically, the special exhibitions are small, tend to be incredibly crowded and are a favorite visit for patrons of the museum. But I wanted to see something that I had been waiting for since my first visit to the Met when I was 10 years old. I wanted to visit the American and European paintings and say hi to a few old friends, to whom I owed a thank you.
Stepping through the American Sculpture gallery into the home of Velasquez, Rembrandt, de Heem, Caravaggio, Tiepolo and Vermeer, I had no idea what it would feel like. These artists are in part responsible for the path my life took after age 10. They struck a cord of curiosity that grows every year and has taken me all over the world. I wondered, after all these years what it would feel like to stand in front of them and have a moment alone.
Would they seem trivial? Might I recognize the foolishness of a little boy and his love of pictures? Or might something unexpected happen? I put down my camera, walked away from my host and vanished.
When I resurfaced almost an hour later, he said, “Oh they’ve been watching us on the cameras the whole time, we have to wrap up. Did you see everything you wanted to see?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
If you would like to see more of the images from the Met, find me on Instagram… @adammarelli