Circle Tours

Metropolitan Museum, The American Wing

Metropolitan Museum, The American Wing

March 13, 2012

Conservancy Professional Circle Members got a fascinating tour of the newly renovated American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum on March 13. Morrison Heckscher, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Chair of the American Wing, blended architecture, art and exhibition design for a rare view of how the 26 galleries were envisioned and installed. Working with long time Met architect Kevin Roche, Mr. Heckscher explained how large spaces ideal for modern art became coved-ceiling, color coordinated galleries where the museum’s extensive collection of American paintings, furniture, decorative arts and period rooms can be fully appreciated.

Mock ups of the galleries helped direct the architects and curators to diminish air conditioning vents, provide hanging slits for paintings and labels and determine the number and location of the paintings. The uniform color, which Mr. Hecksher called a “no color” was arrived at after extensive discussions and experimentation with different pigments. The renovation also “reclaimed” additional space by eliminating a balcony and raising the floor in one area and opening an exit alcove which now provides a view of the park. The design is a contemporary interpretation of 19th century Beaux Arts galleries.

The skylight covered courtyard leading to the exhibition rooms was also re-thought and renovated. An added north balcony provided the perfect place for a recently received pottery collection. And while much of the floor was leveled, providing easier movement, the planners honored the early 19th century bank facade on the east end by maintaining a lower level and the entrance steps.

The New American Wing, which was opened in January, completes a multi-part renovation project that now features nearly all of the American Wing’s seventeen thousand works.

Mr. Heckscher credited Mr. Roche with calmly providing answers as problems arose and being willing to rethink and redo spaces Mr. Roche originally designed. Mr. Heckscher’s extensive knowledge and ready wit were also on full display.

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Circle tours go behind-the-scenes of some of New York’s most interesting historic properties. Some tours require hard hats to visit projects during restoration, while others showcase completed restorations of commercial buildings, residences, museums, churches, and synagogues. On occasion, conservators, engineers, and craftspeople open their studios to our Circle members. For more information, contact Jenna Smith at 212.995.5260 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)