Architecture · Art History · Writing Prompt Responses

WordPress Writing 101 Prompt #8: Evocative Worlds in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Today’s prompt involves describing a place with the added challenge of doing so without using adverbs. The prompt specifies that I go to a place and describe it while I’m there, but I will describe someplace from memory because the weather is crummy, I competed this morning, and I have no desire to go back out of the house today. The place I have chosen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City – the most prestigious art museum in the United States and one of the best in the world as well. The writing prompt tasked me with capturing nuances, so I will endeavor to do justice to my feelings about the place rather than settling for a mere physical description.

The Grand Stairway at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. By Carmelo Bayarcal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The Met is the entire world housed in a single, beaux-arts construction. Reflect upon a serene ancient Greek statue on the first floor and experience the power of a dramatic Indian deity on the second floor. The Met is one of the few physical places on earth I can think of where you can journey across countless miles, years, cultures, and philosophies in the space of less than one city block. You can enjoy both the simplicity of abstract painting and the intricacy of rococo porcelain within a few moments’ walk, or ponder, for example, the diverse ways in which the natural landscape has been interpreted in Northern European old master paintings, the American stained glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Impressionist watercolors, and Chinese pen-and-ink sketches. The building itself is a chameleon that changes its form according to the works within its numerous sections. Soaring, sun-filled atriums housing classical sculptures contrast with the subterranean Byzantine galleries hidden under the stairs. The polite parlors showcasing European paintings live just above the vaults of the Costume Institute, themselves happy to re-invent themselves for each changing designer to be featured. The delightful surprise of a new experience exists just around every corner and down each hall. It is easy to forget about the bustling New York streets outside the Met’s doors, because everything that’s important in world history – the best, worst, and most significant parts – all co-exist inside its walls.

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