Making The Met, 1870–2020
This Audio Guide introduces a dynamic cast of artists, curators, donors, and surprising behind-the-scenes figures whose contributions have all made a lasting impact on the Museum. Their remarkable stories illustrate how individuals shape institutions through perseverance and curiosity, ambition and faith in the power of art. Narrated by Steve Martin, this tour features rare archival audio, contemporary interviews, and dramatizations of first-hand accounts. The tour length is approximately one hour.
Making The Met
Hello, and welcome to the exhibition “Making The Met.” I’m Steve Martin, and I’ll be your guide on this tour. It’s a bit different from your typical audio guide—it tells behind-the-scenes stories of the people who made The Met happen.
Today, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world’s most renowned museums. It houses collections that span some 5,000 years of world culture, and it welcomes over seven million visitors per year. But let’s go back 150 years, to when The Met was just an idea. Picture a crowded room, where William Cullen Bryant, the influential editor of the New York Evening Post, addressed a gathering of 300 people:
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT (ACTOR):
“We are assembled, my friends, to consider founding in this city a Museum of Art, a repository of the productions of artists of every class, which shall be in some measure worthy of this great metropolis and of the wide empire of which New York is the commercial center.”
This year, we celebrate the museum’s 150th anniversary. Here’s Max Hollein, the current Director of The Met.
This has given us an occasion not only to celebrate, but also to reflect on our past, our role in the world today, and our path into the future. This exhibition offers you a variety of stories, told through outstanding works of art from our collections, through transformative moments that changed the DNA of the museum, and through the voices of the people who have made a lasting impact on the institution.
You will hear from artists to a former president of the United States, illustrious donors to curators who came to the Museum from all walks of life. Sometimes you’ll hear their actual voices, and sometimes actors will bring their written words to life.
To tell you a bit about what you’re looking at in this first gallery, here’s Andrea Bayer, Deputy Director for Collections and Administration and one of the organizers of the exhibition.
In this introductory gallery, we have seven remarkable works of art, all of them inspired by the human figure. They range from a Greek relief of about 450 BCE up through Richard Avedon’s remarkable portrait of Marilyn Monroe. We choose these works because in this exhibition, and above all in this Audio Guide, we want you to be thinking about people. And we thought that by having these figures in your mind’s eye as you enter, you’ll get in the spirit that will bring you into this story.
This Audio Guide is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
- CESNOLA AND CYPRIOT ANTIQUITIES (CYPRIOT HEAD, 74.51.2857)
- JAPANESE ARMS & ARMOR: BASHFORD DEAN (GUSOKU, 04.4.9a–l)
- MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS & TEXTILES: FRANCES MORRIS (SAÙNG-GAUK, 89.4.1465a, b)
- PRINTS AND PRINT STUDY ROOM: WILLIAM IVINS (TWO VUILLARD PRINTS, 25.70.14 & .19)
- HUNTINGTON VERMEER (YOUNG WOMAN WITH A LUTE, 25.110.24)
- MORGAN’S PRECIOUS OBJECTS
- HERBERT WINLOCK (SEATED STATUE OF HATSHEPSUT, 29.3.2 & BROAD COLLAR OF WAH, 40.3.2)
- ANCIENT NEAR EAST: CHARLES WILKINSON (HEAD OF FEMALE GODDESS, 54.117.2, AND FIGURE OF MAN WITH ORYX, 60.145.11)
- DANIEL CHESTER FRENCH & AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS (VICTORY, 17.90.1)
- ROBERT & EMILY DE FOREST (MEXICAN BASIN, 12.3.1)
- H. O. HAVEMEYER & TIFFANY GLASS (FAVRILE VASES)
- LOUISINE HAVEMEYER & COURBET NUDE (WOMAN WITH A PARROT, 29.100.57)
- PHOTOGRAPHY: STIEGLITZ AND O’KEEFFE (GROUP OF O’KEEFFE PORTRAITS)
- MODERN DESIGN: BRECK & BACH (ELIEL SAARINEN CHAIR, 1982.197)
- MET MONUMENTS MEN & WOMEN: EDITH STANDEN (WWII UNIFORM, 1988.78.2a–l)
- MET MONUMENTS MEN & WOMEN: JAMES RORIMER & THEODORE ROUSSEAU (HOURS OF JEANNE D’EVREUX, 54.1.2)
- ISLAMIC ART: PHILIPPE DE MONTEBELLO ('STAR USHAK' CARPET, 58.63)
- ASIAN ART: WEN FONG & DOUGLAS DILLON (NIGHT-SHINING WHITE, 1977.78)
- AAOA AND THE ROCKEFELLERS (ASMAT BODY MASK, 1978.412.1274)
- CONTEMPORARY ART: HENRY GELDZAHLER (ELLSWORTH KELLY, BLUE GREEN RED, 63.73)
- NEW MEDIA: LOWERY SIMS (FAITH RINGGOLD, STREET STORY QUILT, 1990.237)