Monday, May 15, 2006


Medieval Cloisters for the 21st Century

Who would have thought it would have taken this long for the state-of-the-art Metropolitan Museum of Art to install humidity controls to protect its medieval frescoes and painted wooden sculptures? According to curator-in-charge Peter Barnet, who sat next to me today at the Met's press lunch, The Cloisters are at last emerging from the dark ages of climate control---part of the much needed longterm renovation of the Met's branch at the northern tip of Manhattan. He claimed that the treasures housed in the 68-year-old outpost suffered little damage (other than minor paint chipping), despite being subjected to so many years of fluctuating humidity. The leaking roofs? Let's not go there.

The new-and-improved Cloisters also includes a cafe and the introduction of audio guides, which the museum insists will enrich visitors' understanding, "without intruding on this special atmosphere"---the tranquility treasured by the retreat's devotees.

Perhaps the press-release writers need to re-read Philippe de Montebello's comments in the book Whose Muse? Art Museums and the Public Trust, in which the Met's director deplores "those horrid audio machines."

Then again, whose voice is it that emanates from those infernal contraptions...?

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?