Saturday, July 07, 2007

at the met friday

From the gym yesterday afternoon, I headed downtown to the Met where I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening. The first stop on my short list was the New Greek and Roman Galleries, which reopened in April after a lengthy renovation. I think it's terrific. Previously the space was used as a cafeteria for the museum's visitors, but I think the way in which the space has been reused is so much more beautiful and impressive. More of the museum's Greek and Roman collection is seeing light now. The gallery's atrium, which is filled with statuary, is spacious and lit with natural light from above. The collection is arranged in chronological order from the Hellenistic period through the Roman Republic ending finally with the Late Roman Empire. I enjoyed looking at the collection of ancient coins. On the second floor of the gallery, there's a significant collection of Minoan and Etruscan art as well as some complete frescoes of house art.

Finally after exploring the new Greek and Roman art, I spent the remainder of the evening in the exhibition, Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797, which ends tomorrow. This is a very large exhibition. I didn't time myself in the gallery, but I spent at least two hours there easily before having to rush through the last few works because the museum was about to close in 10 minutes. Nevertheless, I found this temporary exhibition to be awesome. Having explored some of the historical and cultural issues related to the exhibition in my graduate work, I was very eager to check it out and I wasn't disappointed. Indeed, my M.A. thesis, though not about the Venetians in particular, is very much related to the exhibition's theme of the complex relationship between Christian Europe and the Islamic world during the Middle Ages. Venetian-Mamluk commerce and diplomacy were addressed and examples of various luxury items that we exchanged or traded between the two Mediterranean powers were on display. After reading only books as evidence for my thesis, it was so interesting to see some of the actual items that reveal the dynamic nature of the Venetian-Mamluk relationship: carpets, ewers (which are jugs. I didn't know this.), plates, portraits, and books. Venetian relations with the Ottoman Turks was also addressed. I felt like the tense weeks spent rushing to compose my thesis had paid off to some degree when I was able to recognize many of the different names, events, and dynasties addressed in the exhibition. Overall, I liked it a lot. I found it very illuminating and some of the works themselves are remarkable.


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