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Everything Old is New Again at Met Breuer Museum


When it comes to art, perspective is everything. Perhaps that's why directors at New York City's famed Metropolitan Museum of Art decided to shift theirs, setting their sights on a new location in Manhattan.

The Met Breuer opens March 18 in the same building once occupied by the Whitney Museum of American Art at 75th Street and Madison Avenue. Curators won't be straying far from the building's famous contemporary leanings, but they're putting their own perspective on modern art, and it's colored by their expertise in history and anthropology.

The Met Breuer in New York City (Photo by Ed Lederman, courtesy of the Met Breuer)

The Met Breuer in New York City (Photo by Ed Lederman, courtesy of the Met Breuer)

According to the website, the Met Breuer will showcase modern and contemporary art "through the lens of history."

Met Research Assistant Brinda Kumar noted, "The Met is known for its deep and historic holdings, and to position modern and contemporary within that longer context is something quite unique."

Two exhibits kick off the inaugural season, “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible” and a Nasreen Mohamedi retrospective.

In “Unfinished,” visitors will see a vast collection of 20th- and 21st-century works that demonstrate how even the best artists, whether intentionally or not, left work undone or appearing as if undone. From Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso to Andy Warhol, a unifying theme emerges. It's an idea that has stood the test of time: We don't always finish what we start.

James Hunter Black Draftee by Alice Neel is part of the Met Breuer Unfinished exhibit. (Photo courtesy of The Met Breuer)

James Hunter Black Draftee by Alice Neel is part of the Met Breuer Unfinished exhibit. (Photo courtesy of The Met Breuer)

As far as the surrounding space is concerned, the spare and modern décor of the original building was left mostly unchanged by Met directors. Longtime visitors to the former Whitney Museum may have a hard time separating the building's former identity from its current holdings.

The dichotomy of old and new was not lost on art critics.

"For me, it was amazing to see Renaissance and Baroque art in this space where I've had my education in contemporary art over decades," said writer Leslie Camhi.

And perhaps "Unfinished" is a fitting title for the Met Breuer's own efforts to start anew in a space that's markedly different in both look and feel from the original Met Museum. By showcasing contemporary works like that of Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi, visitors will begin to see the Met as more than just an exhibitor of Egyptian tombs and historical artifacts.

"They've taken a lot more freedom than the conservative Metropolitan Museum does, by mixing Renaissance and contemporary works together here," said art critic Linda Yablonsky.

“Untitled” by Nasreen Mohamedi is part of the Nasreen Mohamedi retrospective currently on display at the Met Breuer. (Photo courtesy of The Met Breuer)

“Untitled” by Nasreen Mohamedi is part of the Nasreen Mohamedi retrospective currently on display at the Met Breuer. (Photo courtesy of The Met Breuer)

Those contemporary works will ultimately have their own place in history, so long as viewers are open to their new perspectives.

Added Yablonsky, "The art doesn't mean anything until the viewer is with it, basically, to give it meaning. That's why we're here, to create a context for the old Whitney, now Met Breuer."

And in the context of the art world, new perspectives are always welcome.

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