The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in 1870 by a group of thinkers, financiers, and artists – their purpose to bring art and art education to the American people. At its original location, the Dodworth Building at 681 Fifth Avenue, the Met’s first collection consisted of 174 European paintings and one object, a Roman sarcophagus.
Throughout the rest of the 19th Century, the Met continued to grow- in size, in the collection, and in renown. In 1874-76, the Met purchased the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot Art, and its reputation as a leading treasury of classical antiquities was sealed. In 1880, it moved to its current site on Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, and by the 20th Century, the Met was known as one of the world’s greatest art museums. When its Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue facade and Great Hall were opened to the public in 1902, the Evening Post penned it a neoclassical palace of art, “one of the finest in the world, and the only public building in recent years which approaches in dignity and grandeur the museums of the old world.” Among its accomplishments: The Met was the first public institution to acquire art from Henry Matisse. It has the largest collection of Egyptian art outside of Cairo. It has one of the most significant collections of European paintings in the world, and its collection of American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts is the most comprehensive in the world. Today, the two-million square-foot building houses tens of thousands of objects.
If you’re planning a visit to the Met, make it a day trip. After all, the Met has over 5,000 years of art from around the world. You won’t want to rush what the museum has to show you, and there’s no reason to leave – not even for lunch – as the museum has restaurants and cafes to suit most palates. Admission to the Met is pay-as-you-wish to New York State residents, and students in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Out-of-state adults pay $25, $17 for seniors, $12 for students, and children 12 and under are free. The museum is open seven days a week from 10am until 5:30pm, and is open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The best time to arrive, though, is early afternoon. This gives you enough time to be there without rushing, but also avoid loads of schoolchildren on field trips. While there, consider getting an audio guide. It is available in ten languages, and features more than 3,000 audio recordings, commenting on works from almost every gallery in the museum.
On January 13, 2015, the Trustees of The Met reaffirmed the museum’s original statement of purpose, adding to it the following statement of mission: “The Metropolitan Museum of Art collects, studies, conserves, and presents significant works of art across all times and cultures in order to connect people to creativity, knowledge, and ideas.”
Taking a trip to Museum Mile on the Upper East Side is always a good idea. Exerting a trip to Museum Mile specifically to visit the Met is a great idea – even Vincent van Gogh, Édouard Manet, and Egyptian mummies can attest.