On March 18, the Met Breuer, the concrete structure of Brutalist architecture designed by Marcel Breuer situated at the corner of Madison Avenue and 75th Street, will open to the public as temporary quarters for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s increasing commitment to modern and contemporary arts programming. Under an eight-year lease agreement with the now relocated downtown Whitney, the Met will occupy the building until completion of a new $600 million wing designed by the British architect David Chipperfield at the Fifth Avenue location.
With a rebranding campaign well in place and a new bold, but controversial, red logo, particular attention was paid to freshening up the Breuer considered by a handful of critics to be a masterpiece of postwar architecture. Restoration architects Beyer Blinder Belle & Planners gave the building an upgrade resulting in several refurbished details including a sparkling interior, shiny bluestone slate floors, high sheen brass in the stairwell and a decluttered lobby.
Jan van Eyck, Saint Barbara 1437
In his opening remarks, Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s Director and CEO, referred to the move “as a turning point for the institution” and waxed enthusiastically about the annex with plans to imbue the Met Breuer “with a new curatorial spirit and reweave it in new ways into the cultural fabric of New York City.”
Along these lines, the Met mounted two exhibitions – a mix of old and new. The largest, “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible,” represents 190 works dating back 500 years from the Renaissance through to today. Of this number, forty percent were selected from the Met’s collection and the rest are national and international loans on exhibition for the first time in the U.S. As a signature show “Unfinished” is an example of the Met’s vast resources stretching across history and geography using the world-class scholarship of curators who have access to an unparalleled collection spanning 5,000 years.
Gustav Klimt, Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III
A thematic exhibition, “Unfinished,” examines works left incomplete or Non finito (a term going back to the Renaissance) either by intent for aesthetic reasons or unexpected circumstances, requiring them to be abandoned as works-in-progress. Although several over-arching questions presented by the curators dominate the exhibition – when is a work complete and what constitutes a finished work? – underlying sketches offer an intimate glimpse into an artist’s creative process explored through a broad sweep of art history. How this trajectory influenced subsequent art movements is one of its major concerns.
Lucian Freud, Self-Portrait Reflection, Fragment
The first part of “Unfinished” located on the third floor is a jaw-dropping selection of Old Masters hung side by side: Jan van Eyck (the earliest work on view is his Saint Barbara, 1437), several Titians, Rembrandts, Leonardos, Rubens, Michelangelo; and other titans from the period who were notorious for leaving works half-done.
Cy Twombly, Untitled 1 to Untitled VI (Green Paintings)
On four, we find modern and contemporary artists comfortably displayed in more spacious, high-ceiling, light filled galleries allowing for an unusual juxtaposition of diverse styles as seen in a cluster of Rodin, Louise Bourgeois, and Bruce Nauman sculptures. Here, too, we find many favorites: van Gogh, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, and six seemingly incomplete panels by Cy Twombly that have an experimental edge.
For the second exhibition at the Met Breuer, stop on the second floor to catch a monographic exhibition, the first retrospective in the U.S., of “Nasreen Mohamedi” (1937-1990) a post Independence Indian modernist. Ms. Mohamedi’s delicate line drawings garnered her international attention as one of the more significant artists of her generation.
Urs Fischer, 2, 2014
Exhibition schedules are as follows: “Unfinished:Thoughts Left Visible” from March 18-September 4, 2016, “Nasgreen Mohamedi” March 18-June 4, 2016. Relation, performance piece by Artist-in-Residence Vijay Iyer, March 18-30, 2016. The Met Breuer, 945 Madison Avenue, metmuseum.org
All photos by Eleanor Foa Dienstag, except Jan van Eyck, Saint Barbara 1437
Jan van Eyck (Netherlandish, ca. 1390–1441)
Saint Barbara 1437
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp
Photo courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gustav Klimt. Austrian, Baumgarten 1862–1918 Vienna
Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III
Lucian Freud. British (born Germany), Berlin 1922–2011
Self-Portrait Reflection, Fragment
Untitled 1 to Untitled VI (Green Paintings) ca, 1986
Cy Twombly Foundation
Urs Fischer. Swiss, born Zurich, 1973
Collection of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Niclolas Rohatyn
Third Floor Lobby