For any visitor to New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must-see attraction. Located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side near Central Park, this massive museum holds visual art, objects, and artifacts from every corner of the globe and spanning more than 5,000 years of world history.
Yet if you only have a day to spend at this museum, you might have to be a bit selective in what areas to see. Here is a rundown of suggested places worth lingering in or quickly going through. Some get a lot of foot traffic and others don’t, but all are worth your time.
Objects displayed throughout this section tell about various aspects of daily life in Ancient Egypt, including history, religion, and culture. The prime piece is the Temple of Dendur. This sandstone temple was dismantled piece by piece from its location in Egypt’s Lower Nubia area due of the construction of the Aswan High Dam, and brought to the U.S. as a gift from the Egyptian government in 1965. The Met was awarded the temple two years later, which then installed the piece in 1978. One thing to look for: "graffiti" on the temple’s walls left by 19th-century European visitors.
This section provides quite an anthropology lesson. It holds a variety of cultural and ceremonial pieces originating from sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. A colored ceiling from a ceremonial house in New Guinea will get your attention, while display cases of Pre-Columbian art feature objects made from gold. Native North American art extends to wood sculptures, objects made from animal hides, and Southwestern blankets. The wing is named for Michael C. Rockefeller, son of Nelson Rockefeller, who collected objects from western New Guinea that are now in the museum. Sadly, Michael disappeared during an expedition in Papua New Guinea’s Asmat region in 1961 and was never heard from again.
This large wing incorporates an impressive assortment of fine and decorative American art. Twenty period rooms dating from 1680 to 1915 give glimpses into interior design at certain stages of history. The wing’s Charles Engelhard Court houses various sculptures and a café where you can find American dishes to snack on. The surrounding views of Central Park make it a lovely, relaxing area. But two other objects found here will also be noticeable. First, there is the outside façade of a Branch Bank of the United States that was originally on Wall Street. Also in this section, discover the colorful loggia from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s home in Oyster Bay, N.Y. American paintings have their own place here with their gallery area. Definitely catch the iconic yet artistic rendering involving Emanuel Leutze’s famous "Washington Crossing the Delaware" painting.
Asian artwork dates as far back as the third millennium B.C.; its department at the museum marked its centennial in 2015. Among the more than 35,000 objects, find Japanese woodblock prints and textiles from the Edo-period; Chinese calligraphy spanning many centuries; Tibetan paintings, and Buddhist sculptures. Plus, the layout makes you feel like you’ve been transported from NYC to Asia.
Since they’re fragile, drawings and prints can only be displayed for short periods of time. So head to this section of the museum to possibly find works ranging from Italian Old Masters, to Dutch, Flemish and German prints, to even works by contemporary American and Mexican artists. Even not-so-art savvy visitors will recognize names like Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Pablo Picasso.
Other museum areas to visit include the European Paintings, one of the top museum collections out here; Arms and Armor Room, with battle suits built for kings like England’s Henry VIII; Islamic Art, with cultural and sacred objects from as far as Spain and Morocco; and Greek and Roman Art, with featuring various antiquities lined up in a great walkthrough area. Plus from May through October, the museum’s fifth floor Rooftop Garden opens up with an art installation amid a great outdoor backdrop.
Usually the Metropolitan Museum of Art is called "The Met" for short, but that’s changing to The Met Fifth Avenue. In March 2016, a new addition called The Met Breuer opened on Madison Avenue, as extra exhibition space for showcasing modern and contemporary century art. Another related site is The Met Cloisters. Located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, this institution takes you back in time to Medieval Europe through art, architecture, and gardens. Want to include two Met places in one day? Hold onto your paid ticket. It includes same day admission at all locations.
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As a kid flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines, Michele Herrmann became hooked on learning about new places and cultures. As an adult, she's turned her love for writing and passion for travel into a career that's been full of adventure and surprises. Her work has appeared on Yahoo Travel, The Lost Girls, The Points Guy, ShermansTravel, Epicure & Culture, and Budget Travel. She also posts about travel from her own perspective on her blog, She Is Going Places. Follow Michele on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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