Image: Details of European Paintings in The Met Collection
Dates: November 20, 2023–Ongoing
Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Galleries 600–644
Look Again: European Paintings 1300–1800 will highlight new narratives and juxtapositions among more than 700 works of art, following an approximately five-year-long project to replace the galleries’ skylights
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will reopen its full suite of 45 galleries dedicated to European Paintings from 1300 to 1800 on November 20, 2023, following the completion of an extensive skylight renovation project that began in 2018. A chronological sequence of engaging displays will showcase more than 700 works from the Museum’s world-famous holdings, offering fresh dialogues and thematic groupings. The newly reconfigured galleries—which will include recently acquired paintings and prestigious loans, as well as select sculptures and works of decorative art—will illuminate the interconnectedness of cultures, materials, and moments in the collection.
Major support for Look Again: European Paintings 1300–1800 is provided by Candace K. and Frederick W. Beinecke.
“The Met has one of the greatest collections of European paintings in the world. The highly anticipated reopening of this vast suite of galleries will invite visitors to reunite with old favorites—and discover incredible recent gifts and lesser-known artworks—all within a newly considered context,” said Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and CEO. “The completion of the enormous skylights renovation project allows us to display these exceptional works of art within a superb setting, and we look forward to welcoming all to enjoy this splendid presentation of art and ideas for many years to come.”
Stephan Wolohojian, the John Pope-Hennessy Curator in Charge of the Department of European Paintings, added: “The skylights project presented us with an important opportunity to re-conceptualize the presentation of The Met’s extraordinary collection through a fresh lens. Our goal is to meaningfully engage with our many audiences and make the experience of viewing our collection as rich, layered, and satisfying as possible.”
The gateway gallery located at the top of the Great Hall staircase, featuring three monumental paintings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, introduces the geographic boundaries of the collection while simultaneously inviting consideration of the dynamic nature of European borders and the continent’s ever-changing network of alliances. The galleries then unfold chronologically, setting works of Northern and Southern Europe into direct dialogue, departing from the previous display which focused on national schools and geographic distinctions. In addition to featuring longstanding strengths of the collection—such as individual masterpieces by artists like Jan van Eyck, Caravaggio, and Poussin; the most extensive collection of 17th-century Dutch art in the western hemisphere; and the finest holdings of El Greco and Goya outside Spain—the reconfigured galleries will give renewed attention to women artists, explore Europe’s complex relationships with New Spain and the Viceroyalty of Peru, and look more deeply into the histories of class, gender, race, and religion. Recent acquisitions will be highlighted, such as William Wood’s exceptional portrait of Joanna de Silva, Clara Peeters’s floral still life, and Francesco Salviati’s portrait of Florentine banker Bindo Altoviti. Select works from other curatorial departments—including works of sculpture, metalwork, decorative arts, musical instruments, and modern art—will further expand the gallery narratives.
The complete replacement of 30,000 square feet of skylights above Galleries 600 to 644 marks the largest infrastructure project in the Museum’s history. The momentous undertaking significantly improves the quality of light in the space and considerably enhances the viewing experience, in addition to resolving basic maintenance issues and increasing energy efficiency. The previous skylights, constructed in 1939 and last remodeled in 1952, had deteriorated over time. The process of replacing and upgrading the roof, skylights, and all the HVAC systems began in April 2018 and was carried out in phases. With construction finished, The Met temporarily closed the full suite of galleries in late March 2023 for reinstallation, in preparation for the November 2023 reopening.
The origins of The Met’s European Paintings collection date to the Museum’s founding purchase in 1871, when 174 paintings were acquired from three private sources in Europe. The collection has since been enriched by numerous donations, bequests, and purchases so that today it possesses one of the most comprehensive surveys of European painting in the western hemisphere. For 140 years, the Museum’s collection of European paintings has been displayed prominently in galleries at the top of the staircase leading from the Great Hall. Part of the original 1880 building, these galleries were modernized and refitted between 1951 and 1954 to accommodate the expanding collection. Further growth required a major reinstallation of the galleries in 1972 in 42 contiguous galleries, which still could only provide enough space for the display of 60 percent of the collection of 2,500 works. To remedy this, the 19th-century European paintings were moved to a newly constructed wing at the south end of the Museum in 1980, and the 20th-century paintings were moved to the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing when it opened in 1987. An extensive renovation and reinstallation completed in 2013 increased the space for old master paintings by almost one-third and resulted in the current configuration of 45 galleries.
Look Again: European Paintings 1300–1800 is featured on The Met’s website and on social media using the hashtags #MetEuropeanPaintings and #MetSkylights.
About The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 by a group of American citizens—businessmen and financiers as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day—who wanted to create a museum to bring art and art education to the American people. Today, The Met displays tens of thousands of objects covering 5,000 years of art from around the world for everyone to experience and enjoy. The Museum lives in two iconic sites in New York City—The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters. Millions of people also take part in The Met experience online. Since its founding, The Met has always aspired to be more than a treasury of rare and beautiful objects. Every day, art comes alive in the Museum’s galleries and through its exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and across cultures.