I got to do a fun thing yesterday: explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but after dark! I was invited by the Yahoo! Travel team to join a ragtag group of bloggers, travel media and the odd reality TV star to
case tour the joint alongside one of the original social media gurus, Sree Sreenivasan, formerly of Columbia University and now the museum’s Chief Digital Officer.
I was invited a few weeks ago, so leading up to the day, I was pumped! Who doesn’t want to explore the Met without anyone else around? I had done something similar ages ago, at the Natural History Museum, so my expectations were set a little high. That particular visit was rife with demos, behind-the-scenes looks at exhibition creation, in-depth Q&As, and hey, even a little wine. What a treat!
This wasn’t that.
This is not to say that #EmptyMet wasn’t fun—it was! It just felt… rushed. Like running through the Lourve in Bande a part, minus the whimsy and romance.
At the start, we gathered round Sree in the great hall, where the 20 or so attendees spent 10 minutes making introductions, but given the grand nature (and reverberating marble) of the space, I couldn’t hear anyone’s name, their bios or their Twitter handles…
And then we were off! Things were said about stuff, which was probably really fascinating and all but omg I had to write a note and then listen in and then we gotta move on guys and please come ahead and look at this neat thing there’s a fact about it but take a selfie and use the hashtag and yeah you’re the only ones in the museum now! By the time we got to the Temple of Dendur, I’d basically checked out of the presentation; the museum is free to get into, and now that it’s open later on Fridays, I could just come in on my own time to take in the amazing collection. As a guy that can literally spend hours in a single exhibition hall (and has!) looking at the every last bit of minutiae, I’m not big on quick takeaways.
So I turned my attention to the butts. There’s a lot of them. Classic Greco-Roman statues with literal God-given derrières, cherubic fountain butts, stately lady bottoms, meso-American asses. I took to being the weird ass-ficionado in the group, basically ignoring the rush job of the tour, snapping away not at the gorgeous Fabergé eggs or medieval armor (missing crotches? PASS) but instead at the round globules of flesh made marble. Because butts! And history.
I did pick up on a few fun things during the tour. Sree’s advice to “always take two shots in a museum: the object and its label” is solid. I could now identify my butt findings! Also, each exhibit has it’s own hashtag, which must be exhausting to catalog, but hey, what a great way to sort through social posts. Lastly, the museum intern (whose name I didn’t catch because there was actually no time to make proper introductions) was the person in charge of making a great ass of antiquity go viral. This 6000 year PK (pre-Kardashian) butt is related to my interests!
We were also shown a gorgeous statue by Tullio Lombardio that in 2002, shattered into 28 pieces; over the last 12 years, conservator Carolyn Riccardelli led the team that restored Adam to his original, stately glory. A video details the process of his restoration, while you can see marks in the otherwise perfect marble where he had a great fall. In a few months, he will be positioned in his permanent home, a specially designed recessed wall, his butt no longer in view. But! I took photos, so his butt is forever immortalized on the Internet. Here it is:
Yadayada, we went through a few non-butt related rooms (including that of Thomas Hart Benton, mentor to Jackson Pollack!) before being ushered out back into the cold. It was a fun tour, and mostly a hour of breathless walking, but the Met is truly a one of New York’s finest institutions. Would I do a whirlwind #EmptyMet tour again? Probably not, unless they let us have time to take in the space, the art. The irony is throughout the tour, we were implored to offer advice on how the Met can better tell the untold stories of its collection. Simple solution: allow the stories to breathe, to open up to people. Taking a group of journalists around and asking them to merely snap selfies in front of a sphinx is not really the way to uncover and unearth those stories.
That said, the Met—enjoyed as the deeply storied institution that it is—is still one of my favorite places in the city. Take your time to seek out its mysteries, or make like me and photograph the butts!
PS: Here’s a bonus shot of the reality star taking a selfie. She did it all night, guys! So Hollywood!
PSS: Alternative title to this post is “Butt Stuff at the Museum”; I didn’t come up with the current title, which was said in passing by a sassier gay man than me during the Gay Graves Tour I attended in Brooklyn a few months ago.
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