New American Wing Galleries

In May 2007, the Museum began a comprehensive renovation of The American Wing. In January 2012, the three-phase project for the New American Wing was completed. Inaugurating the new rooms with a truly inspiring talk, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discusses the importance of American Art and art education. Highlighting Washington Crossing the Delaware, Clinton describes the integral role cultural institutions play in America's position as a world leader. Afterwards, Mayor Michael Bloomberg celebrates the Met's role in New York City.

Learn more about the collection in The New American Wing:

Learn more about the New American Wing galleries, opened January 16, 2012:

Hillary Clinton: Thank you very much and I appreciate that kind introduction, Dan. I am delighted to be here for many reasons to celebrate this occasion and for me, it's personal because I love the Met and I love New York and I love American art. But it's also public and official because every time I travel anywhere in the world on your behalf, representing our country, I am thrilled by the honor of being, for a very short period of time, indeed, a representative to the world of this country that we love and cherish.

Everyone here at the Museum, people who have devoted their lives and their careers to creating a world-class institution, deserve our thanks. Dan and the board, Tom Campbell, Emily Rafferty, Harold Holzer, everyone on the staff. I'm delighted that Mayor Bloomberg is here this evening, Representative Carolyn Maloney, and other public officials who support this American treasure.

Now, improving a way of demonstrating continuing creativity on behalf of the museum is no easy task but you have once again pulled it off. To be here with you, in order to welcome this new American Wing is a special pleasure but it's also been my great delight as Secretary to launch a new partnership between the State Department and the Museum that will help the Met reach a global audience. As Dan said, this work has been led so well by the Assistant Secretary for Education and Cultural Affairs, my friend, Ann Stock, and her team working closely with the team here at the Museum.

We started with a commitment to showcase the remarkable new Islamic art galleries to demonstrate to the world what the Met had done on behalf of Islamic art. And what we did was to send the word out to two hundred and seventy American embassies and consulates, twenty-five of them in Arab nations, promoting this exhibit and doing so with online outreach, posters, video tours, and interviews with the curators and conservators. This is giving more than fourteen million foreign visitors the chance to experience, at a distance, the Met's art and insights. We are also now exploring plans to incorporate educational materials developed by the Met in our English-language training programs that serve disadvantaged young people around the world.

But what a way of showcasing American history and values to open to the world this new American Wing. So we will be back, Tom, to talk with you about how we might collaborate in doing so. Because walking through these extraordinary rooms and seeing not only masterpieces of American art, but a sense of our country coming into its own will have a profound effects on how people think about who we are and, perhaps even more importantly, who we will be.

If you look at the work in these rooms and think about it, of course, you can be inspired by so many of the paintings or the sculptures, but I want just for a moment to talk about the iconic work of Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Now, I'm well aware of historical quibbles, but sometimes metaphor and image tell the story even better. If you look at the faces of the men that are pictured there and imagine how they must have felt on that bitterly cold Christmas night—the revolution was not going well, the idea of America that these men were fighting and sacrificing for was fragile, the future uncertain. That evening, we're told that General Washington had Thomas Paine's words read aloud to his troops: "These are the times that try men's souls." But Paine had not lost hope, he wrote that "Not a place upon Earth might be so happy as America. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength in distress, and grow brave by reflection."

Those men who crossed the Delaware were no summer soldiers, no sunshine patriots. They were Americans doing what Americans would do again and again in the centuries that followed: pulling together to overcome every challenge, working for the common good, providing exceptional leadership for an exceptional nation.

Standing before that painting tonight, more than two hundred and thirty-five years later, we can still look at it and think of those brave first patriots, but it's not just thinking about the past that we should be inspired to do. We've come a long way since then, of course, and the challenges we face are not existential in the same way, despite what you might see and hear on cable television. But these are, indeed, difficult days for many Americans and there is a lot of work ahead of us to renew our strength at home and secure our leadership abroad.

How can anyone walk through this new American Wing and not believe that America has the talent and ingenuity, the grace and the grit, to come through any icy waters? We've done it before; we are doing it again. Each time we face new challenges there are the naysayers who have to be proven wrong and we do it not just with words, but we out-work, we out-innovate, we out-compete every rival. We build a resilient economy at home and a global architecture of institutions and alliances that not only protect our interest and advance our values but really do stand for the best of humanity. And yes, we do sometimes smile in the face of trouble and gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection.

Being here in this city that I love, we've lived through terrorist attacks, two long wars, and a global financial crisis in just the last decade. But America remains an exceptional country. I see that as I travel hundreds of thousands of miles a year, everywhere I go. American leadership is still respected and required, and it's not just because we have a strong economy, it's not just because we have the strongest military in the world, it's not just because our workers are the most productive or our universities and cultural institutions set the global gold standard. It's because of who we are—what you can see in the faces of the people who are portrayed in the remarkable paintings that fill this new American Wing.

Yes, we have challenges, but I have no doubt, and neither should anyone, that we will meet them and overcome them. Today is a special time to be reminded of who we are as Americans, to know that this new American Wing holds much more than wonderful art objects. It holds the promise of what this country stands for, who we are as a people, and the kind of future that we will make together.

Thanks very much to the Metropolitan Museum and to all of you who so generously support it, year in and year out. You have helped to show us our past in a new light and, by doing so, give us a vision of our future. Thank you all very much.

Michael R. Bloomberg: Good evening, and Dan, thank you for that warm introduction and congratulations on a superb renovation. It truly is a colossal achievement in presenting our nation's history and identity. In fact, this may be the best facelift on the Upper East Side—and that's really saying something.

Seriously, this magnificent redesign makes the Met an even more powerful magnet for New Yorkers. It certainly helps Diana and my neighborhood, and for visitors around the world, this is the place to come. Our First Lady Michelle Obama was here for the opening of the Engelhard Court and I'm happy that Secretary Hillary Clinton is here to celebrate the entire project's completion with us. You should know that Secretary Clinton has been a champion of the Met from her days as First Lady and through her service in New York as one of our senators. Madam Secretary, it's always great to welcome you home to New York. Thanks for everything you've done to restore the importance of culture as a form of international diplomacy. And, incidentally, while you're up here from Washington, please spend some money, we need the sales tax revenues.

Because of the support of arts and culture, champions like Secretary Clinton, and the vision and the tenacity of this Museum's founders, and all the people who contribute to make this institution great, the Met makes a tremendous contribution to affirm the values of United States culture around the world. In these galleries, the more than one hundred thousand schoolchildren the Met serves each year will have an extraordinary new experience. The new American Wing will do so much to keep New York City's thriving tourism industry going. Last year, I'm happy to say, we had over fifty million tourists come to New York City and the Met is certainly one of the reasons people come from around the world and around the country to New York City.

And I did want to recognize—Dan already did it, but—the Met's wonderful president, Emily Rafferty. She not only does a wonderful job here at this Museum but she is also the chair of NYC and Company, which is the city's advertising arm and she has really has an awful lot to do with the success of the city from a tourism perspective, creates an enormous number jobs. Emily, from all those people who work in the tourism industry, most of whom did not call me this morning to say, "Please say thank you to Emily," but nevertheless, I just want to say thank you.

And Tom, I will say—Tom, I will say that a few months ago, we had the opening of the Islamic wing. Great success. Now this wing, American—great success. What are you gonna do in a couple of months? You're on a roll! Don't stop now.

Seriously, the galleries are a tribute to many partners who came together to see this ambitious eight-year project from start to finish and the magnificent result really is a testament to the extraordinary team of curators who brought us over the finish line, and under the terrific leadership of Tom, Dan, and the entire board and staff, I want to say thank you on behalf of all the people of New York City.

You know, even in tough economic times, it is important that public-private partnerships move forward and through our Department of Cultural Affairs, the City of New York was pleased to have contributed ten million dollars. And Emily, don't say thank you to me, it's Kate Levin and Patti Harris and you know that, anybody does. So thank you for. . . . but it is the taxpayers of New York City that really deserve the credit.

So to all of you here who support the Metropolitan Museum, I wanted to say thank you very much. I used to be—I used to have the honor of being a member of the board. John Rosenwald had wanted me to join the board. There was a member of the board who was very skeptical about me, and the only way I was going to get by the board—Parker was okay with this—but there was a member of the board that I had to have an interview with and I had to be on my best behavior. So I had a memorable lunch with this young lady, my guess—she would have been in her early thirties, something like that. And Mrs. de la Renta—in the end, I charmed her so I got through that.

Anyways, you know there was a time when the United States wasn't thought to have a culture worth sharing but the establishment of this Museum in 1870, in partnership with the City of New York, was essential to helping us understand the unique challenges and opportunities of our society, seen through the insight and skills of the greatest artists in the world. And as more people from around the world look to American democracy for inspiration, the Metropolitan Museum and this new American Wing have an increasingly important role to play.

So Tom, Dan, Emily, everyone that works at this wonderful place, the board—congratulations. It is a wonderful achievement what you've done here. It is something that people will enjoy, be inspired by, and learn from for many generations to come and the rest of us really are beneficiaries. Thank you and God bless.

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