The New American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum

The old Engelhard Court - photo by Jim in Times Square

Yesterday I went to my favorite space in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It wasn't there.

The Charles Engelhard Court in the American Wing has been renovated. The light-filled pavilion framed by the Greek Revival limestone facade of Martin E. Thompson’s Branch Bank of the United States has been transformed - the raised planters and benches were removed  - and the result is cold, impersonal, and blah.

recent renovation of the engelhard court in the American Wing

It is, in my best technical parlance, a 'nothing space'.

The old court pre-2009

As culture grrl in the arts journal wrote:

 "what had previously been a gracious space. ...there are now vast expanses of highly polished marble, in the no-so-grand tradition of corporate lobbies"

Another sage comment is from the blog of  Noel Y.C.:

"... Visitors can still see Central Park on the other side of the wall of glass, but it no longer feels as though the park extends into the museum."

And  Jim in Times Square said:

"Sadly, the museum will be a far less hospitable place without this relaxing oasis to enjoy ...."

.... so why did they do it? why change the best space in the best museum in the world?

Morrison H. Heckscher the chairman of the American Wing said,  “There was never much art in here. Since it was a garden court, the focus was on tranquillity. The only sculptures were in the planting beds, where nobody could get close to them.”  (this info is from culture grrl arts journal.)

Oh, right...who needs tranquillity when you have so much art to look at?

no soul here

You cannot appreciate the art when your feet hurt you or you want to take a break. Why are people friendly spaces devalued by the culturati ? do they think that benches and greenery take away attention from their wares?

we will never know - alas, another great NYC public space is gone....I count this as the biggest loss to NY since they tore down the great Penn Station (btw, I don't like the 'new' MOMA either) ...


  1. absolutely magnificent pictures!

  2. I just went online to show someone why I was so upset by the changes. You summed it up perfectly. This was my absolute favorite place in the museum, and I was horrified by the changes.



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