Tag Archives: Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Right now my family is enjoying a little European vacation. I’m extremely jealous, to put it mildly. So, I thought I’d write about the closest I’ve come to Europe in the past month: The Cloisters. It’s a castle-like building in northern Manhattan, built from 12th-15th century materials. Inside there are tons of cool castle-y artifacts and treasures. The grounds are beautiful too, just try not to pick a day when the wind can blow you right over. It’s run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the entrance fee is ‘suggested’, so pay what you want.

Exterior, The Cloisters

Face details, The Cloisters

Exterior, The Cloisters

Exterior (and Hudson River), The Cloisters

For someone who loves castles, it’s exceptionally fun to just walk around the building. All the architectural elements have been brought over from real European castles, so it’s all authentic. There are different courtyards as well, so there are some sheltered outdoor areas. One of the aspects that I most enjoyed was the different elements. Columns didn’t match, decorative moldings were different at each doorway. It was a nice eclectic twist on the medieval castle.

Weathered carving above a column.

Mismatched columns.

Sculptural herbivory in a courtyard.

Being a museum, there are tons of artifacts as well. These date from the 9th to 16th century. The centerpiece of this museum is a unicorn theme (can’t beat a legitimately unicorn themed museum!) There are a bunch of beautiful tapestries depicting themes centered around unicorns. I can’t remember exactly, but it has something to do with christianity, and I don’t have time to look it up right now. I’ll pay better attention next time…

Unicorns! This is the most famous tapestry.

Capturing a unicorn.

Besides the whole unicorn theme there are a lot of other cool things. Like the first playing cards, and a treasury. There’s also a neat hallway with some cool stained glass circles depicting different scenes.

First playing cards known to exist. Crazy suits.

Medieval sarcophagus. Or whatever they would have been called.

Huge fireplace.

Besides the castle there is a nice big park to walk around in, and some other buildings and a restaurant. We didn’t have time, or heat capacity (it was chilly) to explore the rest of the grounds, but I guess that will give me an excuse to head back some time.

It’s a great trip for those who are craving a European adventure (because their family ditched them, ahem, ahem), but can’t afford the price tag or vacation time.  You can always follow it up with a night out at a french bistro or british pub to round out the experience!

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But I Don’t Want to Pay Full Price…

Last weekend I had a visitor! That’s right, Daphne drove all the way to Canarsie, Brooklyn!!! After showing her all that my neighborhood had to offer (namely Caribbean food, bodegas and residential housing), we decided that we should venture into Manhattan.

The Met

Because Daphne was thisclose to finishing her Bachelors in Art History we chose to hit up some museums. Neither of us had been to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in years, so that was an obvious choice. One of the great things about a large city like New York are the sheer number of artists on display. As a matter of fact, one of the artist’s Daphne was writing a final paper about was a featured exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum, and as luck would have it, there are free visiting hours on Friday’s from 5:30-7:30!

So first, The Met. Being the frugal gal’s we are, we were hoping to find a way around the $20 entrance fee. Turns out, that amount is just a suggestion. For student’s the suggested entry fee is $10. Even that was a little steep for us (in our defense I’ve been unemployed for longer than I’d like to admit, and Daphne has been a full-time student without an additional job), so we paid about half the suggested fee.

Egyptian Wing

We began in the Egyptian Art area, simply because it was right in front of us. Daphne had an ambitious plan, because she seems to think that walking around a museum does not expend any energy. As an avid walker and gawker I knew that I would be tired after a few hours, but I let her choose the itinerary. Her goals: European Painting and Sculpture and Greek Art.

Creepy Child

Van Gogh

Van Gogh (up close)

Greek Legs

We had fun walking around. I especially enjoyed giving Daphne numerous pop quizzes. It went something like this:

Daphne: This is a great painting!

Me: Why? I need some historical evidence.

Daphne: Blah blah blah art history information…

In fact, Daphne was quite informative, and I actually learned a bunch. It was great getting historical context, learning specific terms, and her descriptions of what was going on in terms of symbology.

Walking around the museum was also fun because we have similar but diverging tastes in art. We both like impressionism in general. I like the more romantic paintings, and for some reason I also like creepy lithographic prints. Daphne likes creepier and ominous paintings (although I’m sure she’ll deny it now).

Near the end of our walk around The Met, which involved quite a few wrong turns (that place is impossible to figure out, thank goodness for the docents/security guards!) Daphne’s feet were in immense pain. For some reason she decided it would be a good idea to break in new shoes while being a tourist.

I read a great story in The New York Times (my favorite source for art reviews, apparently) about an installation being built on the roof of The Met titled Big Bambú by the Starn Brothers. I was very excited to check it out, and we were both excited about the opportunity to sit in the sun and relax. So up to the roof we went!

Big Bambú from within the piece.

Big Bambú from the side (tourist's are to help reference the size)

Daphne on the roof of The Met

I loved how the viewer really gets the chance to interact with the art. You are literally walking through it, touching the bamboo, watching it being built before your eyes. It feels almost as though you are in an unique little jungle. You can even sign up for tickets to walk along catwalks that have been incorporated into the design (unfortunately we didn’t know that ahead of time). The piece will be growing all summer, so you should definitely try to get over to the roof of The Met and experience it yourself.

After resting on the roof for a bit we decided to head over to The American Folk Art Museum to see Henry Darger (1892-1973).

American Folk Art Museum

Based on what I learned from Daphne, he was a very interesting man. Looking around the first part you saw his collages, which I thought were pretty appealing. A lot of his subjects were young girls, and girls from coloring books. That is when Daphne Started to fill me in (the following is a synopsis of what she told me). He wrote the largest manuscript in the world at approximately 15,000 pages single spaced. It was about a race of evil women who wanted to enslave a race of young girls. He illustrated the manuscript with large, graphic murals that depicted all the little girls with penises. This was likely not attributed to him using artistic license, but rather due to his incredibly sheltered upbringing. He simply didn’t know that boys and girls are different. Daphne said that Darger had some far more provocative pieces, but wondered why they weren’t included in this exhibition. I speculated that the museum wants to foster discussion, but needs to toe the line when it comes to outright offending people. I’m not entirely satisfied with this answer though, because I know some exhibits can be quite offensive, and that their point is to make the viewer uncomfortable.

All in all it was an informative and educational day. We both thoroughly enjoyed The Met, and hopefully Daphne got some interesting material to put the finishing touches on her final paper!