Imagine, for a moment, having the Metropolitan Museum of Art to yourself. Think Claudia and Jamie Kincaid from The Mix Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Twenty-two million square feet of space and over two million works of art for your perusal without any crowds, noise, or rushing around.
Guided by two expert curators, 20 people—myself and my husband included—had that unforgettable experience on a perfect NYC fall day in mid-October. We gathered in the grand entrance hall of the museum shortly before 8:30am, and spent the next hour and a half touring the museum before it opened its doors to the general public at 10:00am.
The curators lead us on a winding, semi-chronological path through the galleries. We started with the Greek and Roman collections, followed by a trip through Oceania and Pre-Colombian art which I’ve never spent much time with. Gorgeous, complex, intriguing pieces were created during these time periods, in these remote places! We then moved on through the sculpture courts to Arms and Armor followed by the American wing and a stop in the greenhouse to spend time with the Temple of Dendur, the Roman Arch and the Sphinx. After that, we headed for European painting, followed by quality time ALONE with the Impressionists, the Fauves and the Cubists. We ended up in the Contemporary galleries with a discussion on Jackson Pollock among others, and then for the grand finale, we were led up to the rooftop of the museum for its breathtaking view of Central Park and the skyline of mid-town Manhattan.
My husband and I stayed on past the end of the tour to check out a few more galleries we hadn’t covered. We actually headed for some of the remotest spaces in the museum to continue feeling like we had the place to ourselves. In doing so, we discovered a fascinating section in the American wing we had never seen before—The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art which is a visible-storage facility that displays more than ten thousand works of American fine and decorative art. Objects are arranged by material (paintings, sculpture, furniture and woodwork, glass, ceramics, silver, and metalwork), and within these categories they are arranged by chronology and form. It was fascinating to see pieces of the museum’s collection not on display grouped and categorized in this way for study. It made me want to take college-level art history courses again!
I am now spoiled. This was an amazing way to view the collection: No lines, no crowds, expert guidance, entire spaces to yourself to contemplate a masterpiece. Pretty sure I smiled ear to ear the entire tour. It will be hard to go back to exploring a museum during museum hours with the general public.
If you are interested in having this awesome, unique art viewing experience too, you can! Through viator.com, sign up for the Empty Met Tour. Tickets include same-day admission to The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters (FYI: This is a totally different from taking one of the guided tours offered on The Met’s website.).