The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the biggest and best art galleries in the Americas, with over 2 million artworks in the collection, and an exhibition space are which is amongst the largest in the world. Centrally located in Manhattan, The Met was established in 1870 to make art easily available to view for the wider American people. It displays works of art across every time period and culture from antiquity to present day contemporary artists, and was attracting an incredible 7 million visitors every year before the pandemic.
Originally financed by several businessmen and wealthy financiers who donated artworks as well as money. The Met first opened in a much smaller building on Fifth Avenue, offering free access to all to enjoy a small collection of 174 paintings and a Roman stone sarcophagus. Over the following years, the art gallery rapidly expanded; moving to a larger mansion on West 14th Street as it began purchasing large collections of antiquities, and then expanding again into the present building in 1880. A building was developed specifically for the museum over the previous decade, and continued to expand into the 1900s.
The collection has continued growing ever since, boosted by donations from private collectors, which has extended to as many as 2600 pieces in a single donation, as well as an often aggressive, and sometimes criticised, acquisition policy. Today it has even grown beyond it’s building on Fifth Avenue, spilling over into two additional, though smaller, satellite museums; the Met Breuer and the Met Cloisters.
The collection at The Met art gallery, from antiquity to contemporary
Focused on displaying the best examples of the widest range of art possible, the Metropolitan carries an incredible number of collections, full of outstanding artworks. They include Ancient Near Eastern art, antiquities from Africa, Oceania, the Americas, and Asia, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Islamic art, and vast collections of arms, armour, costume, and musical instruments from all over the world.
Western art extends from the Mediaeval period, through over 50,000 decorative and sculptural artworks from Europe, vast collections of photography, film, and art prints, and on through thousands of paintings from European and American art up to the present day, including 13,000 modern and contemporary artworks. Artists represented in the gallery include Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Carvaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, Turner, Delacroix, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Monet, Gauguin, Braque, and Kandinsky.
The collection is completed with extensive libraries of over 900,000 items including periodicals, auction catalogues, rare books, manuscripts, DVDs, videos, and a vast digital archive of almost 400,000 objects in the main collections. The program of temporary exhibitions at the art gallery tends to focus on single artists, with original artworks loaned from other collections to fill out retrospectives and looks into specific art movements.
An exceptional all-in-one art gallery diving through the entire history of art
Very few art galleries attempt to cover all of art, across every culture and time period, with even most major national galleries splitting collections across a pre-1900s main art museum and a complimentary gallery focused on the modern and contemporary artworks, but at The Met you can find an example of almost anything.
Massively popular at home and amongst tourists in New York, The Met is amongst the greatest art galleries in the world, even though reputationally within the art world it suffers for it’s aggressive acquisition techniques. However, in providing the American public with a vast collection of art and culture to enjoy, it is incredibly successful, even though the challenges of financing in the current time are sadly forcing the introduction of entry fees for foreign and out of state visitors.