Over the course of summer 2014, the Met reinstalled and reopened the enfilade of galleries that showcases modern art from 1900 to 1950. Encompassing approximately 14,500 square feet of gallery space and roughly 250 objects, this project, Reimagining Modernism: 1900–1950, reinterprets and presents afresh the Metropolitan's holdings of modernist paintings, sculpture, design, photography, and works on paper. Organized at the direction of Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, the project integrates European and American modernist collections for the first time in the Museum's history, along with loans in collaboration with the Departments of Photographs, Drawings and Prints, European Paintings, and The American Wing, in addition to loans from private collections.
Reimagining Modernism places icons of the Museum's collection such as Picasso's Portrait of Gertrude Stein and Demuth's I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold on beautiful new vistas, and puts them into dialogue with lesser-known works from the collection—many of which have been either on view infrequently or are presented here for the very first time. These vistas and sight lines owe to the building of new walls and the reconfiguration of existing walls, which inject new life into these spaces. The installation is also enhanced by an increased numbers of works of art by women, including Helen Torr and Elizabeth Catlett, and artists whose derivation falls outside the strictly European or Euro-American nexus, such as Hale Woodruff and Bumpei Usui.
Also unprecedented for the Met's presentation of modernism, Reimagining Modernism is accompanied by an interpretive plan that weaves a coherent narrative throughout the galleries, which not only provides visitors with tools to engage more fully with the works on view, but also activates the collection in new and dynamic directions. The installation is organized into seven sections, or themes—Avant-Garde, Direct Expression, Abstraction, Bodies, Work and Industry, the Metropolis, and Retreat—with each exploring art and life in the first half of the twentieth century from a different perspective.
A blend of chronological and thematic approaches, the project suggests possibilities for the Metropolitan Museum's engagement with and presentation of modern and contemporary art over the upcoming months and years as the Museum prepares to move into and to program the iconic Marcel Breuer building previously occupied by the Whitney Museum of American Art.