Metropolitan Museum Filter
November 27, 2009 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Metropolitan Museum of Art filter: Any suggestions for visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with teenagers?

I will be in NYC for a brief trip with my extanded family. Two of my teenage nieces have become interested in Art History. I am going to spend a day with them at the Met.

I have studied art history. I have been to the Met several times, and know it a bit. I know the big highlights of the museum - but what are the really great things to see that people might overlook? Where in the museum are these things?

I am interested in hearing any other info that you would like to share about the musuem. Keep in mind, the goal here is to deepen and further teenage interest in art history.

Any and all thoughts are appreciated. Any good web-sites (the official website for the museum is very good, but anything else).
posted by Flood to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
At the Met, I tend to overlook contemporary work in favor of the antiquities, and I think that's a shame. With that in mind, if I were taking teens there, I think it'd be fun and interesting to start with contemporary and then work backwards. Start at the shark! (Hirst's controversial shark in formaldhyde, on three-year loan). It's in the second-floor Lila Acheson Wallace Gallery, which overlooks Central Park.
posted by xo at 9:44 AM on November 27, 2009

When I was young, I was fascinated with the Amarna period of Egyptian art (still am in fact), and I particularly recommend their collection. It's a revelation to see the stylized Egyptian figure unbending, and the Amarna period features some of the first naturalized portraits in recorded history.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:45 AM on November 27, 2009

Shell out the extra bucks for the audio tour if you're into art history. Trust me.

The Archives in the American Wing give you a nice look at how museums store and perverse art. Also, it's totally weird and fun to see 40 copies of the same chair stacked in glass boxes.
posted by The Whelk at 9:50 AM on November 27, 2009

What are they interested in? The Met is obviously a big place and there's enough in here to satisfy your interest in ancient civilizations, textiles, statues, paintings, modern art, various countries and schools, right down to a dead shark in a tank.

Basically, do you have an inkling as to what aspect of "art history" is currently moving them? If not, ask them first. Maybe you could all plan the trip together. My aunt took me for the first time when I was around nine, and the Egyptian stuff was my interest that first time, but I also fell in love with a Renoir that's still one of my all-time favorite paintings ("Two Young Girls at the Piano", which is located in the Lehman collection).

One of my solid recommendations is the American Wing sculpture garden. There are a few really great pieces in there that capture animals and one of a dancing girl that captures movement so incredibly well.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:52 AM on November 27, 2009

I recently went with my eight-year-old sister, who obviously has no art history training. It was really fun starting with medieval art, Renaissance art, and then moving onto the Rembrandts (which are fantastic), and watching her explain accurately the difference between Rembrandt's work and that of Renaissance artists. There's a reason art history survey classes are so often taught in order.

Of course the Egyptian temple is a star sight, but some other things I think are really notable are the big gallery in the American Wing, both for the sculptures and the stained glass, and the Frank Lloyd Wright room.
posted by grouse at 10:01 AM on November 27, 2009

Oh, seconding that the museum is *huge* and you shouldn't try to do it all in one go or you'll end up cranky and overwhelmed.
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 AM on November 27, 2009

If they're old enough that they can responsibly wander around alone, you should give them an opportunity to do that (say, for 30 minutes before you meet for lunch or something). Solitary contemplation is a good habit to encourage, and you will all have interesting things to tell each other.

I would also maybe suggest to follow the trip to the Met with a stop at a contemporary art museum, like the Whitney, to demonstrate the differences.
posted by acidic at 10:25 AM on November 27, 2009

Yeah I'd take the Whitney or the Guggenheim over the Met any day, I their interest is contemporary art. Or MOMA.
posted by dfriedman at 10:32 AM on November 27, 2009

Thirding, pace yourself. Trips to the Met can be torturous and downright sadistic if you try to see everything! I think a person can only absorb so much before their brain just shuts down so be kind and gentle to your nieces.
posted by cazoo at 10:35 AM on November 27, 2009

I'd print out a guide to the exhibitions and let them each pick 2 they want to see. Do the Major Highlights tour in an hour, have lunch, do one exhibit off each list, and then let them do the second item on their list alone before you meet up for a pretzel.

The pretzel is mandatory.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:53 AM on November 27, 2009

It may be an obvious choice, but the Temple of Dendur is simply awesome, in both the teenage and the literal sense of the word.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 12:22 PM on November 27, 2009

The first thing that I am going to recommend is to review the schedule for the guided tours, consult with your nieces as to what interests them the most, and go on that tour; the tours are free and led by a docent, and they will focus on a few pieces of art and tell you more about the history and background. For example, they may focus on 6 paintings and tell you the history and a story (ie, what is the painting about, etc). I really enjoyed the tours of the music gallery – I went with a docent who played the recordings of some of the instruments. The enthusiasm of some of the docents also makes the topic come alive.

Also, I’m just going to repeat a story told to by a docent about the Temple of Dendur (I’m sure you will see this with them). The temple was supposedly built in honor of 2 young boys who died. Many years later, the Egyptians were constructing a dam and in the process, flooding the temples. The Americans helped the Egyptians physically move some of the temples and as a thank you, the Temple of Dendur was offered as a gift. However, the museums had to create a plan that demonstrated how they would keep the temple and meet the following criteria: 1) it had to be near water and 2) accessible to the public 24 hours a day. The Smithsonian created a plan (they were going to put it by the river and people would be able to walk by at any time of the day), whereas the MET planned to construct a wing with a window (available 24 hours a day) and build a water structure nearby. Anyway, I was intrigued by that story and was told several other tidbits while going on the Egyptian Art guided tour.

The docents will give a lot of other info on small pieces of art (a bowl from the middle east) – the best way to get info like this is from the docent.
posted by Wolfster at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2009

Cleopatra's Needle is outside the museum in Central Park in its own little grove. It's super awesome looking at dusk and has a famous twin in London (plus, lots of spooooky stories about deaths and bad luck surround them, so that's neat too)
posted by The Whelk at 12:35 PM on November 27, 2009

It's been incredibly crowded lately, so I would say heading back, away from the Great Hall (as suggested by xo above.) If they are interested in art, it's going to be way more satisfying if they can actually get up close to a work and spend some time looking at it, at least for my money.

I would also take a tour or do a gallery talk, it will both help orient you and give lots and lots of information.

All of the above are great suggestions, so I don't want to repeat, but here are a few of my favorites:

-Vanderlyn Panorama - a 360 degree elliptical painting of Versailles, it's behind the Temple and near the American Wing, check it out after the American Wing period rooms, which are also really fun.

-Pablo Bronstein's solo exhibition in the contemporary galleries (really wonderful architectural drawings of the Museum reimagined)

- The Etruscan Study Gallery in the Greek and Roman Galleries - it's upstairs, sort of hidden away, and features tons of small objects that you can access information about on touch screens in the gallery.

- This really cool Studiolo - near the Arms and Armor galleries heading towards the American Wing

- The bark ceiling in the back of the Oceanic galleries - if you turn right at the Sardis Column in Greek and Roman, then a quick left back towards the park, you'll hit the Melanesian Gallery-- look up, an amazing ceiling is reconstructed above.

For other ideas, try the Met's Twitter feed (@metmuseum) or check out a podcast before or after you visit.
posted by jenmess at 1:02 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Costume Institute is hidden away in the basement and I have seen staggeringly beautiful exhibitions of antique kimonos, American pioneer apparel and Dior's New Look, including Eva Peron's inauguration gown. Don't miss it.
posted by workerant at 7:12 AM on November 28, 2009

There's a show up right now of Robert Frank's "The Americans." It's a good chance to see something it, and it's easy to miss the significance of what's on display. Which is to say, that you and your nieces, with an interest in Art History, could find much to mine in that. I think it's also interesting for a teenager (born, say, in the 90s) to see what America was like in 1955 or so. Outside of Mad Men, it's not a period that has a lot of imagery in contemporary youth culture (unsurprisingly) so it might be very interesting to run through it with them.

Also, there's much to look at and learn about Frank's use of the camera. Looking at photographs with kids who are interested in Art History is usually pretty rewarding -- it's a chance to think about the decisions made in representation in ways that are pretty accessible. They have his contact sheets there, which is a great chance to see how an artist decides, sees, and then understands what he or she is seeing.
posted by cloudscratcher at 10:43 AM on November 28, 2009

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