Posts in this series
- The Met Breuer from an Amateur Art Aficianado
- Happy Birthday to the Whitney Museum of American Art!
- Museum of Ice Cream: Sneak Peak!
While the Met Breuer is in its infancy, the Met and I go way back. We were first introduced in college, when I studied art history for the first time. I spent many weekends in their libraries researching for assignments. I paid a few cents per visit, because I was broke and I needed to be there often! Years later, I finally joined the museum and would visit on occasion and attend their summer fundraiser. Now I am a resident of the upper east side, and find myself there fairly often. A lot of people in New York say they live here for the museums and culture. I actually go to at least 1-2 museums a week! So I’m sure you can understand my excitement when the Met announced they were opening an additional location called the Breuer on 75th and Madison. This is in addition to their main location on 5th Avenue inside of Central Park and the Cloisters in Washington Heights.
The Met Breuer is located on 75th and Madison, and despite invitations to preview days and member events, life happened and I couldn’t get there in the opening days. Then I tried to go on Monday. Despite my love of #MuseumMonday, many museums are closed on Mondays! So finally, I made it for my inaugural visit this week. While I love Museums and admiring art, I fully disclosed in the title I am an amateur. I took one art history course in college, but I am not able to give you in depth analysis of the works in this museum. I’m simply here to share the perspective of the average museum go-er.
The Met Breuer is focused on Modern and Contemporary art. To be completely honest with you, as I scanned the map of the Breuer, I wasn’t sure it was going to hold my attention for very long. The museum currently houses two exhibits on their three gallery floors. While the exhibit Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible is a modern exhibition, I was delight ed to see it contained works from the Renaissance to the present. And there was even one hands on piece! I wasn’t allowed to photograph it, so you’ll have to go see for yourself! I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to a “Please Touch Art Exhibition”. (hint hint)
My initial thought was, who wants to see a bunch of unfinished works of art? I started browsing the gallery and was relatively unimpressed, until I caught a glance of a portrait by Picasso.Picasso is most frequently associated with his cubism, and there are plenty of examples of those in the exhibit as well. The portrait drew me in, and then I realized the artists displayed in this gallery were really famous and influential. Then I noticed a Cezanne and a Pollack. Now they had my attention. I went back to the beginning and started over. Carefully reading each name plate. This exhibit is actually quite fabulous for the art historian and the amateur. You learn so much about the artists and their processes by viewing their unfinished work. Some of the pieces had fabulous stories behind them as well, but I’m not here to give it all away. I am hoping you will go see for yourself! Just be sure to read about Gustav Klimt‘s unfinished portrait entitled Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III. Knowing the stories around the creation and sometimes abandonment of the art adds a new depth and perspective. A few of the issues artists dealt with forcing them to abandon projects include illnesses, perfectionism, disgruntled commissioners, and death. Sometimes no one knows why a piece went unfinished.
As I moved into the next room, I discovered the hands on exhibit. I didn’t participate, but I saw the joy of another aficianado as I walked by. One of the interesting parts of this exhibit is that it is up to your own imagination to determine what might have been. I saw what I tell myself was intended to be a mermaid (my favorites) just feet away from a beach. Yes, the brave souls at the Breuer actually brought sand into the museum. As I continued on my journey I found two Mondrians. I will definitely be back. My Mondrian style dress is begging to be photographed by this artwork. And then there were works of art that horrified me. As I stood in disbelief, trying to figure out what exactly was going on in these images. A fascinating sculpture garden filled a room and a wall of large modern panels thought to be representing a forrest concluded the first floor of this exhibit. As I left the floor, I was amazed at how thought provoking unfinished art could be.
I continued downstairs to see the Renaissance pieces and some of the impressionists. It was stunning piece after piece, each demanding your attention and itching to tell you its story. Portraits of famous people or beautiful scenes lined the walls of the gallery. Each of these paintings had at least story. The one left visible, and the not so visible story of how it came to be unfinished. The famous artists continued. Monet, Degas, Tintoretto, Donatello, van Eyck, Dürer, da Vinci, Rembrandt, and I could go on and on and on. I’m not sure if so many famous artists have had their works displayed so close together at any point in history.
As you explore the galleries of the Breuer, you will notice that some of the work seems like they could be finished, or were left unfinished on purpose. And who is really the authority to decide what is finished or not in some of these pieces? And is it still art, even if it isn’t finished?
I hope that you have a chance to see this exhibit which will run through September 4th. If you are unable to see it in person, you can check out my favorites from this exhibit on Pinterest! And if that isn’t enough (because I tried to only include one piece from each artist to give you a broad representation of my favorite pieces) you can view the full collection here. Needless to say, I enjoyed this collection of unfinished masterpieces more than I ever imagined I would.
I had a little time left and decided to explore the other exhibition, Nasreen Mohamedi. It didn’t speak to me, but you can take a look on the website and see if it might be of itnerest to you. The work in this exhibit is abstract, and mostly shades of black and white.
What’s your favorite unfinished work?
If you enjoyed this article, follow me on Instagram at @museum_maven for more photos and museum highlights.