Dec 152015

Empty Met

An after hours tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

  Empty Met, Metropolitan Musuem of Art © Adam Marelli

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.

Empty Met, Metropolitan Musuem of Art © Adam Marelli-2

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.

Empty Met, Metropolitan Musuem of Art © Adam Marelli

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.

Empty Met, Metropolitan Musuem of Art © Adam Marelli-3

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.

Empty Met, Metropolitan Musuem of Art © Adam Marelli-4

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.

Empty Met, Metropolitan Musuem of Art © Adam Marelli-6

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.

Empty Met, Metropolitan Musuem of Art © Adam Marelli-5

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




  4 Responses to “Empty Met: An after hours tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art”

  1. A have story about one of our trips to Florence. Through the hotel we stayed at we were able to book a cooking class that included a visit to the Market with our instructor where we bought some of the ingredients for our cooking class which in the end was our lunch. After the class we wandered around until I had to go back to the hotel for an hour long conference call with the office after which we went for a walk. Around 7 in the evening we ended up at the Accademia which on that night was open. We went in and had the most magical experience. While it was not the experience of visiting it when closed, it was the next best as there was hardly anyone there. We could spend all the time we wanted looking at Michelangelo’s David with basically no one there – the overhead lighting brought features that you could never see in the daylight. Wondering the rest of the Gallery with no one around was almost surreal where you could take all the time you wanted to look at the art and the sculptures. It is an experience that we will never forget and fully understand your experience of visiting the Met after hours.

    • Hi Rob,

      Great story…if there were ever a gallery in Florence to be alone it, my choice too would be the Accademia. The space is done so well and showcases the David in a truly magical way. It was when I saw the David for the first time in 2000 that I understood what sculpture does that painting cannot.

      I wonder what our next art experience will be like?


  2. That is truly amazing.

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