New York's Metropolitan Museum turns 150 in lockdown

Аue to the pandemic, however, one of the world's most renowned art institutions has to remain closed on its big day

Established in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art decided to both celebrate and reflect upon its storied past.

Parties, new exhibits and a big anniversary show: The 150th anniversary of New York Metropolitan Museum was supposed to be marked with fanfare. Monday, 13 April was to be an occasion to celebrate the achievements that brought the museum to this moment, as well as to show where things go from here, director Max Hollein said last year when presenting the anniversary program. The museum was even making its own biscuits bearing the anniversary logo in sugar icing: "The Met 150".

But then came the pandemic, and now the Central Park museum isn't even allowed to open on its own birthday.

"The closure was an emotional moment," says Max Hollein, director of the Met since 2018. But it was clear that with its 7 million annual visitors, they had no choice but to close to protect both the public and their staff.

The Met was the first large New York museum to close its doors at the beginning of March, when the infection figures were skyrocketing even in the metropolis of New York, home to millions of people. Hollein says the decision was also made with the awareness that the Met has a leading position within the museum world. The same goes for the decision to reopen, which he assumes will not be before July.

The Met was founded in 1870 by "some people, an idea, but no art - and not even a building." A group of Americans led by the lawyer John Jay had been inspired in Paris and wanted to create a museum of art and education for their home country.

In 1880, the Met opened at its current location in Central Park in Manhattan and has continued to expand its collection over the decades. The museum now has more than 2,000 employees, about 1.5 million exhibits from the past 2000 years - from antiquity to modernity - and is visited by more than 7 million people every year.

In addition to the main building, there are two outposts: The Cloisters in northern Manhattan which houses medieval art imported from Europe and the Met Breuer in the building of the former Whitney Museum, where the Met has been displaying modern art since 2016.

"I think that, especially in a time of emerging nationalism, the popularity of the Met is based on the fact that it shows that there is not just one perspective, one linear narrative of history and cultural development."

The Austrian director and his team predict that the coronavirus will cost the museum, which had just recovered somewhat after financially difficult years, around $100m and lead to job losses.

"And yet the museum will make it to the next anniversary", says Hollein.

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