The Met's André Mertens Galleries Open
The Metropolitan Museum of Art reopens its André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments on March 22, after a two-year renovation and reinterpretation of the galleries' narrative.
The new presentation, The Art of Music, allows viewers to explore one of the world's most diverse and important collections of musical instruments through a global lens. Instruments of different cultures are now arranged together, highlighting commonalities in music making across cultures.
The four renovated galleries display the treasures of the collection. These include the world's oldest surviving piano, made by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Florence in 1720; Ming dynasty cloisonné trumpets; pre-Columbian drums; Andrés Segovia's guitar; and violins by Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Amati. New to the gallery experience are two audio and video kiosks and an Audio Guide with more than 50 audio clips of the instruments.
Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commented: "Nearly two years in the making, the reopening of our Musical Instruments galleries has resulted in a new, more insightful narrative for our visitors that draws on and reflects the unique strengths of the Museum's musical instruments collection—one of the world's most important and diverse collections presenting a comprehensive perspective on global music."
Through extensive construction work, redesign, and redecoration, the look of the galleries has been transformed. The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments were first installed in 1971, a gift from Clara Mertens in memory of her late husband, the preeminent impresario. In 2010, a portion of the galleries was closed for refurbishment and infrastructure improvement. The current installation has an open floor plan to create site lines for better appreciation of the works. The original herringbone parquet wood floors were restored, and extensive cleaning of the masonry portals and balustrades of the balcony galleries resonates with the beaux-arts heritage of The Met's historic architecture.
"Music is a universal art form, and it is our hope that the new presentation will encourage visitors to think about its presence in every aspect of the human experience," said Jayson Kerr Dobney, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge in the Department of Musical Instruments. "We look forward to welcoming visitors into these renovated galleries."
The Art of Music through Time (gallery 684) is organized chronologically to illustrate that people worldwide have simultaneously created extraordinary music and instruments for millennia. This global perspective makes it possible to identify the underlying parallels in the creation and function of the instruments encountered in the gallery, from the earliest on display—the Openwork rattle bell, ca. early 1st millennium B.C.—to the most recent—the E-pa, 2017. The use of music and instruments to express status, identity, and spirituality, along with the impact of trade, changing tastes, availability of materials, and emerging technologies, are aspects of the art of music that span the sweep of time and geography. The scope of The Met's instruments collection offers the rare opportunity to illustrate this narrative from ancient Egypt to the present day.
Primarily intended to create sound, instruments can also be powerful visual expressions and are often works of art in their own right. As such, their appearance frequently reflects contemporary style, and the production techniques and materials used to make them are often found in other art forms. Included in the gallery are related objects and paintings from across The Met collection that illustrate the universal presence of music and instruments in art and society.
The Organ Loft (gallery 683) features one of the oldest functioning pipe organs made in America, the 1830 Thomas Appleton organ. The instrument was completely disassembled for extensive conservation and specialist maintenance of the organ's mechanism, and its fine mahogany case has been carried out to maintain its sonic and visual beauty. The reassembly and finishing of the entire instrument in the fall of 2017 can be viewed in a timelapse video.
Gallery 682, Instruments in Focus, will serve as a space for special installations of instruments from The Met's collection. The gallery will open with a presentation of the Four Seasons, a quartet of archtop guitars conceived as a complete musical ensemble.The Four Seasons guitars were built by John Monteleone for himself between 2002 and 2006, and function as solo guitars as well as part of the group.
Fanfare (gallery 680) opened to the public in July 2017 as the first completed phase of the three-phase renovation process. The gallery features 93 brass instruments from five continents over two millennia. Its signature installation is an innovative display of 74 instruments called Fanfare that explores the design and use of brass instruments around the world. The instruments are mounted in a large, state-of-the art showcase that allows visitors to view each instrument from all sides.
The third and final phase of the Musical Instruments galleries renovation project, the reopening of gallery 681, is scheduled for spring 2019.
The new galleries feature loans including the Batta-Piatigorsky cello by Antonio Stradivari, made in 1714, on loan from a private collection; a harpsichord made by Jacob Kirkman in 1744, on loan from the Rose Augustine estate; two glass flutes—made for Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis Napoleon—on loan from a private collector; and brass instruments from the David Lessen collection.
A series of gallery-based concerts, called Trade Winds, will take place on March 23, April 27, and June 15, inspired by The Met's Musical Instruments collection and presented in the context of the Museum's encyclopedic collection and exhibitions. The concerts are free with Museum admission, and following each performance, curator Bradley Strauchen-Scherer will lead a tour of gallery 684.
The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments The Art of Music is organized by Jayson Kerr Dobney, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge in the Department of Musical Instruments; Ken Moore, Curator Emeritus in the Department of Musical Instruments; and Bradley Strauchen-Scherer, Associate Curator in the Department of Musical Instruments.
The Musical Instruments Collection at The Met
The collection of musical instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art originated with a gift in 1885 from Joseph Drexel of 44 instruments, and in 1889 by a much larger gift of nearly 300 instruments from Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown. Brown would continue to collect until 1918, building a collection of more than 3,600 instruments for the Museum. In 1948, the autonomous Department of Musical Instruments was formally established with Emanuel Winternitz (1898-1983) as its first curator. Some of the instruments are playable and can be heard in concerts and on recordings as well as in lecture demonstrations.
The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments The Art of Music will be featured on the Museum's website as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via #MetMusic. Posts about the gallery project, Fanfare gallery, and objects in the collection can be found on The Met's Collections Insights blog.
(Source: Meryl Cates, Ann Bailis; firstname.lastname@example.org)