Metropolitan Museum of Art - 04/04/2007
New Greek and Roman Galleries Open in April
The spectacular redesign and reinstallation of the Museum's superb collection of classical art is nearing completion. On April 20, 2007, the New Greek and Roman Galleries, which include the dramatic Leon Levy and Shelby White Court, will be unveiled, concluding a 15-year project and returning thousands of works from the Museum's permanent collection to public view.
The new galleries will house objects created between about 900 B.C. and the early fourth century A.D. Works on view will trace the evolution of Greek art in the Hellenistic period and the arts of southern Italy and Etruria, culminating in the rich and varied world of the Roman Empire. First-floor galleries will be dedicated to Hellenistic and Roman art, and the wholly redesigned mezzanine level—which overlooks the stunning new court from two sides—will include galleries for Etruscan art as well as the Greek and Roman study collection. Together, the astonishing assembly of works on display—some never before seen by the public—will bring to life the aesthetic and philosophical roots of Western civilization.
History of the Project
For more than 50 years, this vast space—originally designed to exhibit Greek and Roman art—has been used for other purposes. In fact, many visitors may know it as the former public restaurant that was constructed in 1950 and to which a cafeteria was later added. The reclamation of this space for the display of classical art was first envisioned in the 1970 master plan for the entire Museum, and advanced when the Museum launched its Greek and Roman Master Plan in the early 1990s. The project has proceeded in phases: in 1996, the Metropolitan opened its galleries for prehistoric and early Greek art, followed by the new Greek and Cypriot art galleries in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
The Leon Levy and Shelby White Court
The focal point of the new galleries is the spectacular Leon Levy and Shelby White Court for Hellenistic and Roman art, which occupies an area originally created between 1912 and 1926 by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. The atrium, designed to evoke the ambulatory garden of a large private Roman villa, has been transformed through the addition of a second story and a dazzling colored marble floor. The much grander treatment befits the space's new role as the culmination of the display of the Museum's Greek and Roman collection. Although the new design introduces several features, it remains faithful to the architects' original concept: a classically inspired architectural style and a glass roof that allows the objects below to be viewed in natural daylight. On view in the center of the court will be nearly 20 Roman sculptures created between the first century B.C. and the third century A.D. that demonstrate a range of materials, styles, and subject matter.
Although examples from the Metropolitan's vast resource of Hellenistic and Roman art have been on view since the Museum opened in 1870, a lack of adequate permanent exhibition space has limited the public's access to a large percentage of exceptionally fine works. The new Leon Levy and Shelby White Court will provide a grand stage for a comprehensive installation of the largest selection of these works ever shown at the Met, including portraits of famous—and infamous—Roman emperors such as Augustus, Caligula, and Antoninus Pius. A display of Roman funerary sculpture, featuring the highly ornate Badminton Sarcophagus with its depiction of the triumph of the god Dionysus, will also be on view, and architectural fragments from the emperor Domitian's palace on the Palatine in Rome will be displayed here for the first time in many years.