Amidst all the amazing art there is to see in NYC every day, there's one show I saw a few weeks ago that keeps coming back to mind. It also makes me lament that we don't use the word "decorative arts" any more. (Someone remind me, what's so dishonorable about that phrase?)
It's no secret I'm a big fan of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the 10 years I've lived in NYC, I've gone there as often as possible, sometimes as much as once a week. And I can tell you -- no one does big amazing shows like the Met.
There's a show on there now, though, that trumps all others I've seen: the exhibition assembled by curators from every department in honor of the 30 years Phillipe de Montebello has served as director of the Met.
This show presents 300 of the most unusual, exciting, and beautiful works of art culled from the 84,000 (!!!) works collected during the venerable director's tenure.
Eighth century Chinese scroll with a horse painted by Han Gan? Check. Five foot long silver serving tray from France like the one owned by George Washington? Check. Stunning Vermeer painting that inspired a novel and a movie? Check.
Besides these treasures, I was amazed by the full set of 52 playing cards from the 15th century, the quilt by a 19th century American girl who collected signatures by the world's luminaries and stitched them together with pieces of silk, the Walker Evans photograph from 1936 of the New Deal Barbershop, the mesmerizing watercolor drawing of a bat by a 18th century Indian artist, the most beautiful painting by Celia Thaxter, one of my favorite flower painters ever.... and I'm not even scratching the surface.
It would be much better for you to go see for yourself. And if you can't, or can't wait, check out the website for the exhibition here -- you'll find pictures and descriptions of every object.
Oh Met, how do you do it???
The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through February 1, 2009