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On October 15, 1922, The Metropolitan Museum opened to the public Furniture from the Workshop of Duncan Phyfe (Fig. 1), the first exhibition ever held in an art museum on the work of a single cabinetmaker. Ninety years later and only for the second time in history, a major retrospective on this iconic American craftsman and his furniture is again on view there, in the Erving and Joyce Wolf and Israel Sack Galleries of the American Wing. Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (Fig. 2) seeks to provide a fresh new perspective on Duncan Phyfe (1770–1854) and his work by bringing together for the first time documented furniture made during each successive style phase of his long, distinguished career.

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Exhibition Dates:   October 13, 2011 – January 2, 2012

For more than 60 years, the Alfred Stieglitz Collection has been the cornerstone of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s holdings of modern art from the first half of the 20th century. From October 13, 2011, through January 2, 2012, the Museum will present Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe, the first large-scale exhibition of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from Stieglitz’s personal collection, acquired by the Metropolitan in 1949. The exhibition will feature some 200 works by major European and American modernists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi, Vasily Kandinsky, Francis Picabia, Gino Severini, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Charles Demuth, and Arthur Dove.

The exhibition is made possible by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.

In addition to being a master photographer, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was a visionary promoter of modern American and European art, and he assembled a vast art collection of exceptional breadth and depth. Through a succession of influential galleries that he ran in New York City between 1905 and 1946, Stieglitz exhibited many of the most important artists of the era and collected hundreds of works of art by his contemporaries.

This will be the first time since their acquisition in 1949 that the Museum’s vast holdings from the Stieglitz Collection—including many works on paper that are rarely on view—will be exhibited together.

Alfred Stieglitz played a pivotal role in the introduction of modern art into America and its subsequent development over the course of the first half of the 20th century. At his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (1905-17), known as ‘291,’ Stieglitz boldly showed the work of avant-garde European artists such as Auguste Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Picabia, Brancusi, and Severini—sometimes before it was shown anywhere else in the United States. The first rooms of the exhibition Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe will focus primarily on works by European artists. Among the highlights are: Picasso’s Woman Ironing (1901) and Standing Female Nude (1910), Kandinsky’s Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II) (1912), and Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse (1910), as well as a suite of prints by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1890s). The first half of the exhibition also includes a room of drawings by the Mexican caricaturist Marius de Zayas, who was a pivotal advisor to Stieglitz and played a major role in organizing some of the most avant-garde exhibitions at 291 in the 1910s.

In Stieglitz’s subsequent undertakings, first in borrowed space at the Anderson Galleries (1921-25) and later at his own galleries—the Intimate Gallery (1925-29) and An American Place (1929-46)—he refocused his energy on showing and supporting contemporary American art, which was not well represented in prestigious public and private collections at the time. The latter portion of the exhibition Stieglitz and His Artists will feature works by American painters whose careers he shepherded from the 1920s to 1946 and whose work he felt epitomized the authentic American experience: Arthur Dove, John Marin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. There also will be individual rooms devoted to the works of Charles Demuth and Marsden Hartley, including Demuth’s I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928), and Hartley’s Portrait of a German Officer (1914). The exhibition will culminate in a gallery of some 14 works by O’Keeffe, such as her iconic paintings Black Iris (1926) and Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue (1931).

Among the other artists featured in the exhibition are: Gordon Craig, Henri Edmund Cross, Arthur B. Davies, Gaston Lachaise, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Diego Rivera, Paul Signac, Félicien Rops, and Abraham Walkowitz.

In addition to the paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints displayed, the exhibition will include a number of photographs by the Photo-Secessionists, as well as publications by the Stieglitz Circle, all from his personal collection.

About the Collection
After his death in 1946, Stieglitz’s wife, Georgia O’Keeffe, as executrix of his estate, decided which institutions would receive gifts of art from his collection. The Metropolitan Museum was very fortunate to receive the largest share of Stieglitz’s personal collection: more than 400 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints. The remaining works from his collection were distributed among the Art Institute of Chicago, Philadelphia Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Fisk University in Nashville, and Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven.

Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe is organized by Lisa Mintz Messinger, Associate Curator in the Museum’s Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a major scholarly catalogue of the entire collection, edited by Lisa Mintz Messinger, with contributions by 11 Metropolitan Museum curators, researchers, and conservators. The catalogue will feature 440 full-color illustrations, an introductory essay, individual essays on the artists, and entries on all 409 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at the Metropolitan. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, the catalogue will be available for sale in the Met’s book shops ($65, hardcover).

The Museum will offer an array of education programs for this exhibition, including subscription lectures, a Sunday at the Met program, gallery talks, films, and services for visitors with disabilities.

An audio tour, part of the Museum’s Audio Guide Program, will be available for rental ($7, $6 for Members, $5 for children under 12).

The Audio Guide is sponsored by Bloomberg.

Stieglitz and His Artists will be complemented by the presentation of Photographic Treasures from the Collection of Alfred Stieglitz in the Museum’s Howard Gilman Gallery from October 13, 2011, through February 26, 2012. This installation will feature 45 masterpieces from Stieglitz’s collection of photography, including rarely seen works from the turn of the 20th century by Anne Brigman, Alvin Langdon Coburn, F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, Joseph Keiley, Heinrich Kühn, Edward Steichen, Clarence White, and others.

Stieglitz and His Artists also will be featured on the Museum’s website at

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If you still think that African art is not your thing, there’s an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum that may change your mind. It’s called “Heroic Africans: Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures,” and it’s as beautiful to look at as a show can possibly be.

It’s a perception changer in other ways too, as it argues, through demonstration, against basic misunderstandings surrounding this art. African art has no history? No independent tradition of realism? No portraiture? All African sculpture looks basically alike, meaning “primitive”? African and Western art are fundamentally different in content and purpose? Wrong across the board.

Art from sub-Saharan Africa is some of the oldest known, dating back tens of thousands of years. In the exhibition the oldest pieces are naturalistic, portraitlike terra-cotta heads from southwestern Nigeria from the 12th century.

Before the modern era, ancient African chronicles were passed on by word of mouth, from storyteller to storyteller, and many sculptures, early and late, embody centuries-old accounts of real people and real lives. They compress them into a visual shorthand the way oral tradition compresses generations-long narratives.

Even a quick stroll through this exhibition’s eight sections, each devoted to a different West or Central African art tradition, confirms African art’s variety, in a stylistic spectrum stretching from detail-perfect representation to near-abstraction. And as to African art’s pertinence to Western concerns, suffice it to say that almost all the sculpture in this exhibition is asking a question that is foremost on the mind of many Americans in the early stages of the presidential campaign: what are the qualities we want and need in our political leaders?

To ease our way into all of this, the show begins with a comparative look at political power portraits from Africa and the West: a 17th-century brass head depicting a ruler of the kingdom of Benin, in what is now Nigeria, and a carved marble bust of the Roman emperor Octavian, who called himself Augustus, from around A.D. 5.

Augustus’ portrait is of a familiarly naturalistic type; we know his name because it was written down and is found on many identical portraits. The naturalism of the Benin head is highly stylized, and the name of the ruler unknown, lost with the spoken histories erased by colonialism.

Despite their differences, though, neither “portrait” is more or less realistic than the other. Augustus is depicted as a Greek Apollo with a Roman haircut. The Benin king, wide-eyed and plump, almost bursting with good health, conforms to an African ideal of regal well-being. Both portraits commemorate real people who lived and died, but are, before all else, abstract emblems of ethical standards to be emulated and political power to be revered.

And since political power was usually accompanied by wealth throughout Africa, as everywhere else, the ruling elite drew on top-rank talent and technology when commissioning art. This is evident in the Benin royal portraits and in the terra-cotta heads produced in the Yoruba capital, Ife, also in Nigeria, between the 12th and 15th centuries.

With their soft, grave naturalism, these heads have an automatic appeal to the Western eye, and the seven examples in the show are simply out of this world. All have similar sensuous features: full lips, almond eyes and all-over patterns of vertical striations, read by some experts as cosmetic scarring, by others as representing shadows cast by beaded veils attached to royal crowns.

Published in News
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 03:55

Metropolitan Museum Unveils Revamped Web Site

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has been trying to rebrand itself over the last year as a visitor-friendly art behemoth, unveiled a redesigned Web site on Monday, the first time the site has been thoroughly updated in more than a decade.

It includes several new features that are beginning to become standard for large museums, like a zoomable, clickable floor plan similar to one the Art Institute of Chicago created two years ago. The Met’s version allows prospective visitors to look closely at almost 400 galleries to see what to expect, and visitors already at the museum to use smartphones on parts of the site to find their way to favorite artworks.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that the exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, which closed last night at midnight, attracted 661,509 visitors during its run from May 4 to August 7, placing it among the Museum's top 10 most visited exhibitions. Joining other blockbusters on the list such as Treasures of Tutankhamun (1978), Mona Lisa (1963), and Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2010), Savage Beauty ranks as the eighth most popular exhibition ever held at the Met in its 141-year history, and is the most visited of the special exhibitions organized by The Costume Institute since it became part of the Museum in 1946.

"We are enormously gratified that visitors turned out in record numbers to view this powerful exhibition of McQueen's work," said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The show was an elegant tribute to the designer's artistry, and we are proud to have shared it with such a broad audience, eager to experience the breadth of his genius."

To accommodate the public's keen interest, the Museum extended the exhibition by one week, offered a special viewing hour for Members daily at 8:30 a.m., added late hours through midnight on the last weekend, and implemented $50 ticketed Mondays with McQueen so the public could see the exhibition when the Museum was normally closed. The eight Mondays when the exhibition was open attracted more than 17,000 visitors. During the run of the retrospective, more than 23,000 new Members joined at the Museum—more than double last year's comparable numbers.

The exhibition catalogue has sold well over 100,000 copies to date through the Met's book stores and website, as well as through other outlets, with distribution by Yale University Press. Popular McQueen merchandise in the Met Shops, including armadillo shoe ornaments, crystal skull paperweights, and tartan purses, sold out several times and were repeatedly reordered.

The exhibition could not be extended further because the galleries need to be turned over for the preparation of the exhibition "Wonder of the Age": Master Painters of India, 1100-1900, which will open on September 28.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is made possible by Alexander McQueen™.
Additional support is provided in partnership with American Express and Condé Nast.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that 5.68 million people visited the Met during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. The number, which includes attendance at The Cloisters museum and gardens, is the highest recorded in 40 years. The total was more than 400,000 greater than in Fiscal Year 2010.

"We are delighted by this extraordinary response to our collections and programs, especially in the context of ongoing fiscal challenges faced by both the Museum and the public," said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO. "The Met is truly a museum of the world, and that scope is reflected in our collections and the remarkable range of visitors who come here each year. There is something for everyone within our galleries, and I have no doubt that we will continue to give audiences reasons to keep returning again and again."

Visitors in Fiscal Year 2011 were particularly drawn to a number of special exhibitions, including the popular Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, which has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors since it opened on May 4. (The Museum has extended the exhibition by an extra week through August 7, and it will remain open to the public for extended hours until 9 p.m. beginning August 4. The exhibition will also open an hour early for Museum Members, beginning on July 22, every day except Mondays. Additionally, the Met Mondays with McQueen ticket program continues to offer additional hours on Mondays for special viewings when the Museum is otherwise closed to the public.)

Last summer's highly attended exhibitions Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (April 27-August 15, 2010), which drew 703,256 visitors, and Doug + Mike Starn on the Roof: Big Bambú (April 27-October 31, 2010), which drew 631,064 visitors, also contributed to last year's record attendance.

The 5.68 million attendance figure includes more than 214,000 New York City school visitors who were welcomed by the Museum, nearly 20,000 more than the previous year. Membership has now reached a record-breaking 139,800.

Additionally, the Museum's website ( had 47 million visits in Fiscal Year 2011, a 17.5 % increase over last year. The Museum's Facebook page now has more than 500,000 fans, and its Twitter feed has more than 300,000 followers.

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