Last chance — 3 Decades of Acquisitions at the Metropolitan Museum

The “Philippe show,” as it is known around the joint, closes on Sunday. I was going to make this a Ten Minutes at the Met entry — I went up to the show thinking I’d find just two or three objects to point you to — but I couldn’t do it. There’s just too much going on and, since the objects are from every curatorial department, they don’t compare very well. But here is what I advise, especially if you are going back for a second or a last look: try and take in the witty, or resonant, or baffling combinations. In the very first room, a set of four, nearly square, small panels by Lorenzo Monaco, each with an individual Old Testament hero enthroned, hangs next to a four-by-four grid of Becher watertowers.
Moses, Lorenzo Monaco
A couple of rooms on, an exquisite image from 16th century Iran of divinely drunken dervishes at a poetry party is paired with Bazille’s 1867 painting of a medieval wall in late-evening, south-of-France light. The cylindrical gate-towers against the flat of the stony wall rhyme with the hexagonal house of the dervish party.
Listening to HafizGate at Aigues-Mortes
And it’s not just flat things, it’s sculptures — room six, is it, with the Brancusi Bird in Flight, the pleated dress by Madame Gres, the Egyptian torso with its pleated tunic in basalt, plus the smooth planes of a head of Athena and the rippling curls of Alexander Menshikov’s wig as rendered in pine — small objects and large, musical instruments and instruments of death. Since the narrative of the exhibition is not about the works or their artists or the cultures they sprang from, formal issues are forced forward. I feel a bit abandoned, but more emancipated. Make the stories from what you see.

(oh, as ever — disclaimer applies, see About.)


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