Monday, September 7, 2009

Meet Me at the Met

Believe it or not, I have yet to experience just about all of the museums that New York City has to offer- which sure is a lot. So far, I have only been in the Met, but if it counts for anything at all, I have been there twice.  When you initially step foot in this vast museum, you are overtaken by throngs of tourists trying to figure out where the heck they are supposed to pay for admission and begin their exploration of this never-ending, world-famous mansion of art that can sometimes seem like a maze, even if you've been there a few times.  Once you finally discover how to line up for admission, almost everybody  around you proceeds to chat-chat, trying to figure out just how much the admission actually is. "I heard it was free; Is that true?" is the line coming out of most mouths as folks wait in line.  Nobody really knows how much the met costs, which is quite normal, considering that it has an optional admission donation. This does not mean that you can choose if you want to pay or not, but, rather, it means that you can choose just how much you want to give to the Met. After spending a year bargaining my way through Europe, finagling deals left and right, and moving to the city on a publisher's salary, it is difficult for me to want to spend any more than the bare minimum for admission, regardless of my avid support for the arts.  So I feel my face turn red as I pretend to act like I am uninformed of the optional donation amount.  Once I discover that it is optional from the clerk, I hang my head and say, "fifty cents is all I have, sorry. I'm a student". Not only is the first part a blatant lie, but the second part of that couldn't be farther from the truth either these days. As I stand at the entrance of such a classy, historic museum, I can't help but feel cheap and shameful at the thought of my fifty cent donation. Some guy says to me, "Hey, you can pay twenty- five cents and still get in!", as if to try and make me feel better. Soon after, I walk up to the "Met Supporters" wall and realize that this museum is doing perfectly fine and does not need my pathetic fifty cents, even if there is a sign that claims it needs our donations to stay open.  Conde Nast publications and J.P. Morgan Chase are just two of the donors to the Met. Needless to say, even if my fifty cents were fifty dollars, The Met still has these big time organizations to provide for it.

The first time I visited the Met, I walked through the "Model as Muse" exhibit, which was stunning and tragic at the same time. It was enthralling to be able to see the old covers of Vogue- covers from a time when the publication still held its dignity and had old fashioned class. One cover stands out in my mind. It is black and white, and simply has the face of a woman on the front, wearing a large brimmed hat. The hat has a connecting piece of net on it that partially hides the woman's face, making for a mysterious, sexy, and unforgettable image.  I think one of the only colors visible is the red from her lipstick.  It is so simple, yet so elegant. These days, Vogue is something close to 75 percent ads. As I made my way through the exhibit, it was sad to see the classic fashions of Dior and Chanel fade and give way to the trashy, edgy looks that Kate Moss sports. Suffice it to say, the evolution of fashion says a lot about the direction our culture has gone and where we are headed. Magazines pander to the consumer-driven world of advertising, and, sadly, they are watered down versions of what they used to be.

Now that I'm done with my little tirade about modern culture, I will tell you a little story about something that happened to me in the Impressionist exhibit. I've always been a huge fan of Impressionism, mainly because of the light and use of color that is such a large part of it altogether.  One of my all time favorite museums is the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, due to its large collection of brilliant impressionist paintings by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh- among others. I could really spend all day looking at this stuff; it just makes me so calm and happy. So anyways, I am looking at this beautiful painting of the shore by Degas, and all of the sudden, this short, creepy looking guy comes up to me and asks me what my opinion is of this painting and if I am an artist. He then starts to go on about his attempts at art and his skills at writing, which is really of no interest to me whatsoever. I think I tried to be somewhat friendly and told him about my career as a staff writer for our school newspaper, which seemed to impress him a bit too much. However, after this short attempt at socializing with a complete stranger, I awkwardly listened a bit longer and decided it was time to make my escape. This sorts of run ins are commonplace for me- just ask anyone who knows me well. Is there a sign on me that says, "Please come talk to me and increase the level of awkwardness in my life, because it just isn't high enough"?

My second visit to the Met was with a friend, and I must say that going with somebody is far different than going alone (more enjoyable? Depends on your mood). I showed her my favorites, as if the Met was my living room.  There's something empowering about being able to guide somebody around the Met. It was also nice to have feedback about the art this time and to not have random strangers approach you for no particular reason.  We were particularly impressed with the large, open room full of statues that is used for swanky fundraising events.  Light streams in from the glass windows located at the top and causes the place to glow, contrasting nicely the rest of the museum, which is is dark and cold. 

Another impressive part of the museum is its Egyptian art collection. From sculptures to vases to sarcophogi (how the heck do you spell that?)- they really have it all. It's always been so fascinating to me that all of these artifacts still exist, despite thousands of years of death, destruction, wars, etc. I will admit that I used to have a strange obsession with all things Egypt, so their vast collection really excites me.  When I was in grade school, I would check out books every single week from the library on mummies and pyramids. I was literally obsessed with mummies- especially King Tut. I truly believed that the curse of King Tut was on the whole city of Cairo and that everybody there was doomed for all eternity. Looking back, I don't know how I slept at night after looking at pictures hundred year old frozen explorers found in Nova Scotia and the like. I'm not normal now, and I wasn't back then either. Nobody needs to remind me of that; I am too aware of it.

 I think I'll go to the Met again many more times, both alone and with friends; it is nice knowing that I can walk six blocks and pay fifty cents (or less) for the likes of Monet, Michaelangelo, and 5,000 year old Egyptian sculptors. No offense, guys.

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