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Making the Met: The Met Announces Celebrations for Its 150th-Anniversary Year in 2020

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New York – The Metropolitan Museum of Art  (The Met) has announced the key components of its 150th-anniversary celebration in 2020, including major gifts of art from around the world; exhibitions and displays that will examine art, history, and culture through spectacular objects; and dynamic programs that will engage The Met’s local and global communities. Highlights of the year include the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020, the opening of the newly renovated British Galleries, the display of new works of art given to the Museum in honor of its 150th anniversary, the launch of cross-cultural installations, a robust schedule of programs and events, and more.

Daniel H. Weiss, the Museum’s President and CEO, said: “As we celebrate this milestone, 150 years since our founding on April 13, 1870, we are grateful for the bold vision of our founders, who included a handful of New York City leaders and artists of the day. Over the course of the next 150 years, that vision grew into one of the most important cultural institutions in the world. This anniversary is an exciting moment to celebrate what The Met means to its audience, from the New Yorkers who enjoy the Museum regularly, to the millions of tourists who walk through our doors every year, to those who experience our offerings remotely. It is also an opportunity to reflect on our history, to plan thoughtfully for our future, and to say thank you.”

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, said: “The Museum’s anniversary is an occasion to celebrate this extraordinary institution, and appreciate the vibrancy and astounding depth and scope of its collection, scholarship, and programs. We are also thinking deeply about our responsibilities as stewards of this exceptional resource, our commitment to cultivating the understanding and appreciation of art, and the ways in which we can illuminate the connections within cultural histories. The Met strives to be a seminal encyclopedic museum—of the world, for the world, and in the world—and we are grateful to everyone who supports us in achieving that goal.”

The centerpiece of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 150th anniversary celebration will be the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020. On view from 30th March to 2nd August 2020, the presentation is a museum-wide collaboration that will lead visitors on an immersive, thought-provoking journey through The Met’s history. Organized around transformational moments in the evolution of the Museum’s collection, buildings, and ambitions, the exhibition will reveal the visionary figures and cultural forces that propelled The Met in new directions, from its founding in 1870 to the present day. It will feature more than 250 works of art of nearly every type from The Met collection, including visitor favorites and fragile treasures that can only be displayed from time to time.

A range of intriguing topics will be explored, such as the educational and aspirational ideals of The Met’s founders; the discoveries and dilemmas of excavation; the competing forces of progressivism and nationalism that led to the founding of the American Wing; the role of the Museum during wartime; and the evolution at The Met’s centennial toward a truly global approach to collecting. Rarely seen archival photographs, innovative digital features, and stories of both behind-the-scenes work and the Museum’s community outreach will enhance this unique experience. The exhibition will have an audio guide and be accompanied by a catalogue.

A highlight of The Met’s 150th anniversary will be the 2nd March opening of the Museum’s newly installed Annie Laurie Aitken and Josephine Mercy Heathcote Galleries—11,000 square feet featuring almost 700 works of British decorative arts, design, and sculpture created between 1500 and 1900. The reimagined suite of 10 galleries (including three superb 18th-century interiors) will provide a fresh perspective on the period, focusing on its bold, entrepreneurial spirit and complex history. This new narrative will be evident in a gallery devoted to “Tea, Trade, and Empire,” which will explore the period’s commercial prosperity with a dazzling display of 100 English teapots while also examining the exploitation of both human and natural resources that accompanied that abundance.

This is the first complete renovation of the galleries since they were established (Josephine Mercy Heathcote Gallery in 1987, Annie Laurie Aitken Galleries in 1995). The reopening will feature a large number of new acquisitions, particularly works from the 19th century that were purchased with this project in mind. A prominent new entrance will provide direct access from the galleries for medieval European art, creating a seamless transition from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. More information is available at metmuseum.org/British-Galleries.

The Met’s 150th anniversary is an exciting opportunity to further evolve the institution’s encyclopedic collection in all curatorial areas, with an eye toward capturing multiple historical narratives. The Museum has received hundreds of exceptional works from more than 100 generous collectors and supporters in honor of the 150th anniversary, ranging from important individual objects to large collections. These gifts and promised gifts will be displayed in galleries at The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters, and will be identified by special red labels.

Large gifts from individual donors will be featured in dedicated exhibitions. The Costume Institute exhibition In Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection (27th November 2019 to 17th May 2020) will feature nearly 80 of the 165 promised items from one of the finest private collections in the United States—a gift that will greatly enrich the Museum’s holdings of 20th-century fashion. Opening 2nd December 2019, Aesthetic Splendors: Highlights from the Gift of Barrie and Deedee Wigmore will showcase nearly 50 of the 88 works of American art promised by the Wigmores, including decorative arts of the Aesthetic Movement and Hudson River School paintings.

Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection (10th March to 28th June 2020) will celebrate the remarkable ascendancy of photography over the last one hundred years through the promised gift of over 60 extraordinary photographs from Museum Trustee Ann Tenenbaum; the collection is particularly notable for the breadth and depth of works by women artists such as Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, and Helen Levitt. At The Met Breuer, From Géricault to Rockburne: Selections from the Michael and Juliet Rubenstein Gift (29th January to 29th March 29 2020) will highlight approximately 50 of the 160 promised works from the Rubensteins’ collection of mostly drawings and watercolors, ranging from an early 19th-century drawing by the French artist Théodore Géricault to a mixed-media work on paper from 2019 by Dorothea Rockburne.

Among the new works that will enhance and expand the stories told in the galleries are a Tibetan war mask from Steve Kossak; 82 works, mostly hanging Japanese scrolls, from Cheney and Mary Cowles; Ludovico Carracci’s The Denial of Saint Peter (ca. 1616), from Mark Fisch; six wooden African sculptures dating to the late 19th-early 20th century, from Javier Peres and Benoit Wolfrom; and a Greek marble statue of a panther from Nanette Kelekian. Recent modern and contemporary gifts include Pablo Picasso’s Seated Female Nude (Femme Nue Assise), from Leonard A. Lauder; Robert Gober’s Untitled [Butter Churn], from Trustee Aaron Fleischman; and Sam Gilliam’s State, from the artist himself.

On 4th March, 2020, The Met will launch a new series of installations drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection called Crossroads, which will explore specific themes that span different cultures. The initiative will emphasize intersecting narratives in human creativity and will underscore the multiple ways in which a work of art may be understood. The first iteration of Crossroads will consist of three installations: “Power and Piety” in the Medieval Sculpture Hall (Gallery 305); “Empires and Emporia” in the Asian Art Galleries Astor Forecourt (Gallery 209); and “Mythical Beasts” at the intersection of Greek and Roman Art, Ancient Near Eastern Art, and Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia (Galleries 173–176). Further details will be available in early 2020.

To mark its anniversary, The Met will host a series of special events and offer an array of public programs throughout the year.

On 13th April 2020—exactly 150 years since the Museum was incorporated—City and State officials will gather for a commemorative program and ceremonial cake cutting. There will be musical performances in the Great Hall throughout the day, presented in partnership with music programs from around New York City’s five boroughs.

A three-day-long celebration will be held from Thursday, June 4, through Saturday, June 6. A fundraising gala will take place Thursday night at The Met Fifth Avenue, followed by a dance party made possible by the Museum’s individual and corporate supporters. Friday will begin with a scholarly symposium titled “Shifting Perspectives on Art and Museums.” On Friday evening, visitors may take part in a range of experiences designed for adults (tours, workshops, performances, art making, and more), featuring artists, authors, personalities, and curators. The festivities will continue Saturday morning with an outdoor, artist-led event. Saturday will conclude with activities on The Met’s plaza and throughout the Museum.

The Museum will invite the public to share their own, personal stories of The Met, from memories of the Museum’s spaces and collection to reflections on the impact of the arts. In January 2020, The Met will launch a video series featuring a range of stories—serious, comedic, endearing, quirky, solemn, and more—to show how the experiences of The Met are carried outside the gallery walls and into the world. Everyone will be encouraged to submit their own stories, photos, and videos on social media (using the hashtag #MyMetStory) or through a submission form on The Met’s website, here: metmuseum.org/Share-Your-Met-Story.

The Met’s 150th anniversary is a time to celebrate the Museum’s gratitude for its Membership community. Starting January 2020, each new Member will receive art-inspired commemorative Member cards. Throughout the year, an augmented calendar of events will include a new series of curator talks around the reopening of the British Galleries and Making The Met, 1870–2020, an All Member Party in June, and specially curated new Member programming for families and young professionals.

Starting April 2020, The Met Store will offer a new line of products based on the winning submissions from The Met 150 Design Contest—a contest that invited the public to submit original designs inspired by images of works in the Museum’s collection. Six designs were selected through a combination of crowd voting and deliberations by a judging panel that consisted of Chirlane McCray, poet, speechwriter, activist, and First Lady of New York City; Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue and Creative Director of Condé Nast; Zac Posen, fashion designer; Fred Wilson, conceptual artist; and Max Hollein, Director of The Met. All revenue from sales will support The Met’s education projects. More information is at metmuseum.org/150/contest. Additionally, The Met Store will launch a designer capsule collection in April 2020 with exclusive products inspired by The Met.

The Museum will release a limited-edition print portfolio created by a select group of contemporary artists. On the occasion of its 100th anniversary, The Met invited artist Robert Rauschenberg to make a limited-edition print. This important work, titled Centennial Certificate MMA, is held in the collection of The Met and numerous other public institutions and will be featured in the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020.

Fifty years later, the Museum is expanding on this idea and producing a portfolio of limited-edition original prints created by a small group of international artists of diverse backgrounds, interests, and styles who all have a history with The Met. The 150th-anniversary print portfolio is being co-published by Sharon Coplan Hurowitz and produced by the legendary artists’ workshop Gemini GEL. It will be sold exclusively in The Met’s Mezzanine Gallery Store in 2020.

A special edition of the Metropolitan Museum Journal—an annual publication that serves as a forum for scholarly findings about works in The Met collection—will be dedicated to the Museum’s 150th anniversary. Journal 55 will explore how global currents in art history shaped the creation of The Met and how, in turn, The Met has itself shaped the field of art history in the United States and internationally. It will include essays originating from a symposium on June 5, 2020, and will be available in The Met Store starting December 2021.

Activities related to The Met’s 150th anniversary will be featured on The Met’s website at metmuseum.org/150, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #Met150. 

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