New York, 9-Apr-2018

Monday was a quieter day. We were planning on one attraction, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Looking at the weather and sky, though, we saw that it would be worthwhile to go up the Empire State Building, so we did that on the way. We relaxed for the late afternoon and evening. It's nice to have some planned downtime.

Empire State Building

Having checked the weather the night before, we knew there would be a good chance that the view from the Empire State Building would be good, so we planned on waking up so we could get there early. When we leave the apartment, we get a great view of the building as we walk up Broadway towards the subway station, and there was a clear view all the way at the top. We hopped on the subway, got off, and walked the couple blocks over. At first, we didn't recognize the entrance since there were no people waiting outside.

Into the building we went. We were directed straight up the escalator, walked past huge sections of empty switchbacks. Getting to security, there were only a couple people ahead of us. Our passes allowed us to skip the ticket booths, but there were no people in those lines. We had to wait for one elevator, but after that, it was up to the 80th floor, where you get a look at things behind windows. One more set of elevators (got the first one there) and we were out on the viewing platform.

Because of the time, the sun was not very high in the east, so our views towards the east showed buildings in shadow. The other directions were great, though. The viewing platform wasn't all that crowded, and it was easy to get good looks at the city.

Once we were done, we went down the elevators, went to the subway, and went to The Met.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

We arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when they opened and waited in line to get into the building and through security. Once we were in, we only had to wait for a couple people to exchange our passes for tickets. We then dropped things off at coat check, and started making a plan. It's hard to portray how large The Met is. We figured we wanted to at least touch many of the major sections, looking for highlights. The first step was to take the highlights tour, which was about to start.

The guide took us to about a half-dozen pieces of various periods, styles, and media. He was very knowledgeable and adept at answering questions. The big laugh of the tour was when he asked people how they thought Pollock painted one piece, a guest answered, “Blindfolded?” The guide assured her he would be using that story on future tours.

Once the tour was complete, we went back to pick up audio guides, then began looking through things. Once we started going through, we realized that it would be better to split up and meet up after Greek and Roman, Arts of Africa/Oceania/Americas, and Modern and Contemporary. Throughout our visit, I did a lot more looking at the architecture, and that started in Greek and Roman Art. The two main display halls (Gallery 153 and Gallery 162) were both very interesting, with the natural light through the huge windows in the ceiling.

In the Oceania area, the pieces where I spent the most time were the Asmat Bis Poles, made by people in New Guinea. They represent specific individuals who have died and become ancestors. They're made of a tree, but displayed upside-down. A root is worked into the design and sticks out at the top.

At Modern and Contemporary Art, I went back to a piece pointed out by the guide, a room of wall panels by Thomas Hart Benton called America Today. It was done in 1930–31, so the Depression had begun, but its impact was still yet to come. The panels are filled with representations of various parts of life and are filled with social commentary. The guide had pointed out that Jackson Pollock was put into one of them.

We met up and decided it was time for lunch, so proceeded to the basement to the cafeteria. After that, it was back to the exhibits. Melody had already looked through European Sculpture, so she was going to continue with the first floor of the American Wing, then to Egyptian Art. I was going to start at European Sculpture and aim to catch up with her before we went upstairs.

Once again I couldn't stop looking at the architecture. Not only was the main hall in that section (Gallery 548) also skylit (and had a great view of the Central Park Obelisk) but also had one wall which was the original Fifth Avenue Carriage Entrance. It was well-restored, and did give the whole gallery a European feeling.

On my way to the American Wing, I got somewhat stuck in Arms and Armor. I wandered around a bit, but didn't see the way over to the American Wing, so I worked my way back to the Main Hall, picked up a map, and went to the Egyptian Sculpture section. I wandered around a bit but stopped to spend time at the Temple of Dendur. As it happened, Melody was there, too. She was going to wander a bit in Egyptian Sculpture, while I was going to look at the first floor of the American Wing.

It didn't take me long to find the courtyard with its façade of the Branch Bank from 1822–24. The windows along one long wall and ceiling gave the space an open-air feeling, and people were enjoying the various pieces scattered around.

By this time Melody had gone upstairs to pre-1800 European Paintings, so I went to look around there, too. We went at our own pace, but touched base every now and then. I decided to make a detour to look through the Musical Instruments section, enjoying looking at the pianos they had there. They also had an installation with various wind instruments, with a conch shell as the centerpiece.

Among the masters represented in European Paintings, one of the standouts was Vermeer's Young Woman with a Water Pitcher which had a very pleasing combination of form and light. We also took time to admire Rembrandt's Self-Portrait; we've seen other in various galleries, including one a few days before at the Frick.

By this time we were pretty worn out, so we punted on other galleries, knowing we'd have other opportunities to return. It was about the time that Celeste got off work, so she called right after we had gathered our items from coat check. We planned to meet for coffee not far from Marion's apartment.

Rest of the day

Melody and I arrived first, so we grabbed drinks and a snack and grabbed some table space. Celeste showed up soon after, and it was good to have time to sit down. It was still early for dinner, so we walked across the street to Strand Books to wander around. It's pretty big, especially considering the lack of space in Manhattan. We killed enough time for us to go back to across the street to pick up things for dinner, then we went to the apartment to eat and chat with Marion. After we finished, Celeste headed home and we settled in for the evening.