Hurrah for snow days! I am warm and cosy on the sofa with a nice cup of tea, busy ‘working from home’ (I have really been working, honest) and listening to children laughing as they pelt each other with snowballs outside. Aforementioned child genius next door is playing the piano for me through the wall, and it’s all very calming and lovely. I was going to write a review of Home, which I finished yesterday, but I have realised that it’s going to take me some time to let it all sink in before I can even begin to start talking about how magnificent it is. So instead I shall share some photos of my recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I really love this Museum. It’s like a cross between the V&A and the British Museum; absolutely ridiculously huge, but stunningly beautiful, and I adore spending a couple of hours here and there wandering through the galleries, always spotting something new to catch my eye. This time I went in to see the photography exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand, who were all early users of photography in the 19th and 20th centuries and took particularly striking images of New York, amongst many other beautiful, haunting portraits, including one I particularly loved, of WW1 soldiers practising rifle drills in a lofty hall of a Parisian palace, which unfortunately isn’t online. I love photography, and it is one of the great sadnesses of my life that I am physically incapable of taking good photos. However, this exhibition inspired me to just give it a go; some of their most magnificent images are of very ordinary street scenes, made extraordinary by the way they have framed them and situated the light. It doesn’t seem impossible! If you’re in the area, you should definitely go to see these exquisite photographs. And if you’re not, there’s a book!
Something I came across while in the Museum this time that I hadn’t seen before was its gallery of ‘Open Storage’. I have spent a lot of time in the V&A Museum stores, and while the public can make appointments to come in and view specific objects for research purposes, there is no real opportunity for people to come and browse the millions of objects the Museum doesn’t have space or reason to display, stacked from floor to ceiling in rolling racks of wonder. This is a real shame, as getting to go behind the scenes and see a) how objects are stored, and b) what objects are stored is such a fascinating experience. Museums are in a difficult position of not really being able to dispose of objects once they have acquired them; there are a myriad of reasons for this, such as clauses in wills, obligations to governments, obligations to donors, and the inevitable issues that arise from declaring an object no longer of relevance to a collection. As such, most have collossal amounts of objects that far outstrip their gallery space, and these objects need to be stored in a way that keeps them safe from damage and theft, yet also accessible for scholars and other people who need to see them. The V&A’s stores are currently at Blythe House, in Kensington Olympia; Blythe House also contains the Science Museum stores and some of the British Museum’s stores, too. I’m not sure where the Met’s entire stores are, but they have a whole suite of galleries in the American Wing devoted to open storage racks, where visitors can stroll amongst cases stacked with paintings and sculptures and ceramics and coins and medals and dozens of other objects, all of which would ordinarily be in a storage room. Within these galleries are some absolute treasures, including Whistler portraits, a whole suite of Mary Cassatt paintings, a rather eerie long row of Greek statues, and gorgeous ceramics, all of which left me wondering what other treasures might be hidden away in the bowels of the Museum. A wonderful thought!
More culture came in the form of my first opera last night; my friend Sophia (whose father happens to be a professional Opera singer) and I went to see Rigoletto at the other ‘Met’; The Metropolitan Opera House. Thanks to two very kind benefactors, the Met gives away 200 orchestra (the stalls, for my fellow Englishwomen and men) seats every night for just $20. You have to queue up to get them, so I raced to Lincoln Center after work to join the queue, and thankfully I managed to secure two tickets. We had absolutely spectacular seats, about 15 rows from the front, and I was in raptures throughout. I’ve never seen a live opera before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I truly was blown away by the passion, the intensity and the tragedy of it all! The costumes were beautiful, jewel coloured creations; the sets were atmospheric; and the music – well, the music was absolutely sublime. The Opera house itself is absolutely divine as well; all gold and sparkling and sumptuous, and it really was just such a special treat to be there. I will be going again! As we came out of the opera at around 11.30pm, the streets were silent and muffled with the snow that had fallen while we were inside, witnessing the fall of poor old Rigoletto. As we hurried to the subway amidst the feathery flakes, I glanced back at the Opera House and had one of my New York moments as I saw the fountain and the beautiful arched windows become a soft, snowy blur. What a beautiful city this is, with so much to see. I am so glad I moved here.