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All the best secrets of the Metropolitan Museum of Art brought to you by Museum Hack!
When you think “Metropolitan Museum of Art” you probably think about Central Park, 5th Avenue shopping and Upper East Side ladies wearing fur and eating finger sandwiches, right? Yeah. Wrong! The Met was started by Finance Bros who wanted to show up the French (specifically, the Louvre.) They decided that New York City needed an encyclopedic museum to “culture the masses.” When they first started the place, it was stationed in a townhouse on the corner of 53rd and 5th. Today, it's the home of a Tommy Hilfiger and once they outgrew that, the museum moved down to 14th St, in what is today the big Salvation Army. When it moved to Central Park in 1880, there weren't even paved roads. You had to go into the park in order to get into the museum. Why? The Upper East Side of the 1880s was essentially the Wild West, and the city thought that having a museum up there would help people move uptown. In fact, the first day they opened the Met on the weekends, their major issue was that they didn’t have enough spittoons for the patrons. The Met is meant to be a museum for the people, so OWN IT. Though, no more spitting in galleries.
Next time you are waiting in line to get your museum admission, check out the flowers in the Great Hall. They are endowed by Lila Acheson Wallace, the heir to the Reader's Digest fortune. They are replaced weekly and are always seasonally appopriate. For example, during Halloween, they usually put a pumpkin in the middle. How would you know this? There is the tiniest of plaques under the major flower pots. Look close. One guy has been replacing these flowers for years - most of the arrangements are between 10-12 feet. He also does flowers for MoMA. But we don’t talk about that.
Scary line out the front doors and up the stairs? Never fear - there is another entrance that you should know about at 81st and 5th. We call it the “Education Entrance,” because it’s where school groups usually go in. While it doesn’t have the grandeur of the Great Hall, the coat check and admission lines are ALWAYS shorter, there are pre-admission bathrooms (!) and the gift shop has all the same stuff as the big one upstairs.
That Met facade, huh? It’s so pretty. So iconic. So neoclassical. And so… unfinished? Look wayyy up at the top. See those lumpy pyramids? Apparently, architect Richard Morris Hunt wanted 31 statues carved onto the facade, but he died before he fully explained himself. Then his son suggested that they should be carved to represent Music, Architecture, Painting, and Sculpture. Which is nice and all, but why didn’t they get finished? Money. The Met ran out of money. In 1902, they decided to move on to other things, and never went back to clean up the lumps. Now the building is landmarked, which means altering the exterior is sorta a big no-no. Oops.
The best bathrooms are on the second floor, north side, Asian Art. To be avoided? The ones in the hallway heading towards the Temple of Dendur. There is always a line, and they usually smell. If you want to be sneaky, there are restrooms just south of the Medieval Hall, just before the entrance to Petrie Court European Sculpture Gallery. There is also a drinking fountain.