Opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Art on This Day
Francis Baco, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975, color lithograph on wove paper
Today marks the day the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened doors to its original location on 681 Fifth Avenue in New York in 1872. It was founded two years earlier by various business and finance personalities, artists and thinkers of the day, amongst which were John Taylor Johnston whose private collection of art formed the basis of the museum's display, American painter Eastman Johnson whose name can still be noticed inscribed on the museum's entrance and Luigi Palma di Cesnola, Italian-American diplomat, soldier and amateur archeologist, appoiinted the museum's first director following the institution's acquisition of Cesnola's antiquities discovered during his travels to Cyprus. The museum saw a rapid expansion of its collection during this period, with higher demand for space bringing on the transition to a temporary location on West 14th Street and eventually returning to Fifth Avenue following the Diamond Jubilee celebrating the museum's 75th anniversary through a widespread programme of events and holding its first exhibtion.
Currently ranking as the fourth most visited and the largest art gallery by area in the world, the Met houses an extensive collection of works spanning across over five thousand years in history, from ceramic figures illustrating the rise of civilisation in the Near East dated between 8000 and 3000 B.C to modern and contemporary art by the likes of Henri Matisse, Georgia O'Keeffee and Mark Rothko. Its iconic Fifth Avenue facade was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, American architect who also worked on the Statue of Liberty's pedestal; the modernist glass features were brought about under the commission of Kevin Roche and open the museum's interior to nearby Central Park and its surroundings.
 Pablo Picasso, Woman in an Armchair (Eva), 1913, oil on canvas


The history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection is laden with notable gifts enriching the diversity of works available to its visitors. One of the recent acquisitions granted the Met with an opportunity to present one of the world's most comprehensive displays of Cubist art, as philantropist and cosmetics tycoon Leonard A. Lauder donated his collection of nearly 80 paintings, sculptures and drawings with a total value estimated at over 1 billion dollars and including works by Picasso, Gris, Légers and other pioneers of the movement. Alongside showcasing its broad collection to the public across its three Manhattan locations, the primay Met Fifth Avenue as well as The Met Breuer and The Met Cloisers, the institute is driven by its forward-thinking, modern approach. Its recent recent decision to provide access to thousands of works through an online catalogue continues to fulfill the museum's mission of promoting fine art education and art's application in everyday life, and inspires both large-scale and specialist art institutions to employ innovative ways of nurturing art development.