Lion of the Blogosphere

How to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Yakov” writes in a comment:

Tell us about your trip to the museum. I’m dying to go, but haven’t been in years – too much work. Working this Sunday and as far as I can see in the future. Terrible. My life is very beastly, sometimes. So blog about the museum, will you?

They try to make it appear like you have to pay $25 to get in, but actually the museum is legally required, based on a very old deal with New York City, to allow people to visit for free. I always give a single dollar, because I would feel extra cheap giving a penny, or explaining that I want to enter for free. I suspect that one dollar is the most common donation of people who don’t pay the full price. This is not a deal that the current management of the museum is happy about and they would not make it today if they were doing things over again.

The best entrance is the handicapped entrance to the left of the big stairs leading up to the main entrance. This side entrance is a lot less crowded.

The coat check is free and you are not supposed to tip. So take advantage of the coat check!

At the cafeteria in the basement, the food is about 75% more expensive than food at a regular self-service type of lunch place in Manhattan, but pretty convenient, and plenty of seats on a weekday. They give out free water just outside of the cash registers, so don’t waste your money on buying an overpriced soft drink; water is healthier and a lot less expensive. You are supposed to bus your own tray after you finish eating; you should do that in order to not be an obnoxious slob.

The museum has the expected large collection of paintings from famous artists, but there is a lot of other stuff such as statues from ancient Rome and Greece, a big collection of Egyptian artifacts, arms and armor, furniture, costumes (I suspect that gay men like that exhibit), musical instruments, knickknacks etc.

Through May 15th, there is a hugely significant exhibit of Vigée Le Brun paintings. Make sure you see it before all of the paintings are sent back to European museums and private collectors.

I wish they had twentieth-century and contemporary landscape paintings, but unfortunately they don’t have any of that because it’s considered “kitsch” and not worthy of being in a museum. They just have the normal crap that’s considered museum-worthy modern and contemporary art. I suggest you avoid that part of the museum unless you’ve seen everything else. I don’t even know why they are wasting exhibit space on that stuff, the city already has two other museums for that stuff, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum.

There’s too much to see in just one day. Also, most of their medieval art collection is at The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. You should go there too sometime. Same admission rules.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 28, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Posted in New York City

26 Responses

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  1. The Museum of Modern Art is also $25, but that’s mandatory. Still worth it.



    February 28, 2016 at 4:48 pm

  2. Cloisters is worth it just for the building alone. A gorgeous monastery with a view over the river. Stunning stained glass windows. Medieval times for the affluent classes perhaps? There were lots of groups from fancy private schools in their uniforms.

    The Met was indeed overwhelming. After some hours in there it’s hard to even reconstruct my memory. Besides an endless parade of jewels and amphorae I remember the gilded triptychs and this one decoration that consisted of layers of spheres within a sphere all in the form of elaborate scenes…carved from a single piece of ivory. It blew my mind.
    They also have an entire Egyptian temple that they transported there with a room big enough to encompass it. It’s like Xanatos from Gargoyles in real life.
    Well, it was going to get flooded by the Aswan dam anyway, so they got a deal to just take the whole thing.
    Was in NY for a few days as a tourist some years ago.

    Got a similar sensory overload on the Las Vegas strip on a Friday or Saturday night. The Venetian and the Wynn alone well worth it. Treasure Island across the street mostly underwhelming but if you look around they have these elaborately carved woolly mammoth tusks on display. Best trophy wife watching at Caesar’s Palace.

    Giovanni Dannato

    February 28, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    • Cloisters one of the undiscovered gems of the NY museum world. Also check out the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.

      As a former NYer and 15 year Nevada resident (Reno/Tahoe division, however) I also concur with Venetian and Wynn, but also check out the fountain show at The Bellagio and the buffet at Paris.


      February 28, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      • You live in the desert? Do you ever miss NY?


        February 28, 2016 at 9:31 pm

  3. Gehen sie nach die Neue Gallerie. Cool stuff, not cheap, but worth it. Decent bar too.


    February 28, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    • Ach, ja, die Neue Galerie! (Ein ‘l’, das ist Deutsch.) ‘Twas where I discovered spaetzle, and fascinatingly depressing Weimar art. Plus they have the second most expensive painting in the world, at least a while ago. The whole thing is the boondoggle of Ronald Lauder and will probably go under, but the art is great.


      February 29, 2016 at 8:45 am

  4. There is a secret entrance I discovered by accident. It’s just to the south of the huge outdoor stairs. It almost looks like a service entrance, I think it’s marked Education or something. Anyway, it’s open to the public, and I have never waited once to get in. The coat check is right there.

    I love the period rooms. I don’t they are particularly gay, so I take straight men friends there and they like them too. You get to see how rich alphas decorated their digs in the past. Isn’t that of interest to straight men?

    I also give $1.


    February 28, 2016 at 5:51 pm

  5. I went there for the first time this summer when I was visiting a friend in Manhattan. I was very impressed at how large it was. I spent several hours there and still felt like I only scratched the surface.

    The suggested donation thing really confused me though. I think I wound up paying the $25 since I wasn’t mentally prepared to go lower. Still not a bad deal for what you get.

    Jokah Macpherson

    February 28, 2016 at 6:11 pm

  6. Why not get a membership and feel less cheap? Since you’re unemployed you could amortize it.

    Best tip I can give is that the furniture wings are almost always empty even if the rest of the museum is packed. Especially the early american, and japanese wings. And the rodin scultpure garden is not to be missed.

    Yakov are you kidding? I’ll take you there with my 6 daughters… it will be a day to remember.

    slithy toves

    February 28, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    • Careful, it’ll be like Fiddler on the Roof with that crazy yid!


      February 28, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      • Exactly, Vincent. But the question is : would it spoil some vast eternal plan?


        February 28, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    • I noticed this as well. It worked out since the furniture was one of my favorite parts.

      Jokah Macpherson

      February 28, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    • Thanks, I’ve visited in the past, just not in the last 10 years. I’m gonna pay $10 now that I know who this works. I think $10 is about right. But when am I gonna go? Would be nice to have an HVAC museum. Also a museum/zoo with rides dedicated just to donkeys, because these are quite amazing animals. My Tajik says that donkeys aren’t stupid, by the way.


      February 28, 2016 at 9:44 pm

  7. “This is not a deal that the current management of the museum is happy about and they would not make it today if they were doing things over again.”

    The management does a good job of tricking people into thinking they have to pay. I always give a dollar and if the cashier rolls her eyes I tell her straight up I’m a New Yorker and I pay a city income tax to support these institutions so shut up!

    If you’re lucky enough to live in NYC then you should go to the Met multiple times a year to see specific exhibits and collections. I cannot appreciate a museum for more than 2 hours at a time.


    February 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    • I’ve never seen the cashier roll his or her eyes. I am sure they encounter dozens of equally cheap patrons every single day. Nothing unusual at all. They may very well actually think the people paying full price are suckers.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 28, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    • Even if you don’t pay city tax, the museum is a huge draw for tourists who spend lots of money on hotels, food, shopping, shows, etc. Considering how much revenue the museums indirectly contribute to the economy, free admission is still probably a good deal for the city.


      February 29, 2016 at 12:18 am

  8. I’d missed El Greco a year or so ago, I’ll try not to miss Vigée Le Brun. Take off work? Maybe, but then I’m paying 1 cent, not $10 and bringing alone a sandwitch and a thermos. Lion, good post.


    February 28, 2016 at 9:52 pm

  9. Some random notes on the museum:

    1. On paying for a visit, if you live in New York, you should just get an annual membership. If you do this and visit once a month, and there is enough to see to make this worthwhile, it comes out to paying something like $10 per visit and there are other benefits that come with a membership. If you are a tourist, I recommend a strategy of allocating an entire day to visit the museum -remember its open late on Friday and Saturday- in which case I don’t think you will care much about the $25 (its very easy to spend that over the course of a day elsewhere) and again there is more than enough to see.

    On the same note, if you visiting, check out the websites of other museums you might be interested in to see if they have times when they give discounted or free admissions. Also, the daily admission fee for the Met also covers the Cloisters, and it is possible to visit both on the same day though it takes some planning.

    2. The “overwhelming I can’t see everything” problem goes away if you just set aside an entire day for your visit. Then you can pace yourself. In addition to the cafeteria in the basement, there is a small cafe in the big hall with the fancy French sculptures, and a number of courtyards where you can sit and veg out for a while. For example, there is a Chinese garden just upstairs from the Temple of Dendur. Another tactic is to treat the place as half a dozen museums under one roof, and just pick a couple of sections and focus on those.

    3. The Met has a modern art collection, but its stuck way in the back of the museum and is very skipable. My guess is that most visitors don’t even realize its there because its so out of the way. Its considered to be a decent collection by people who like modern art. Its there because the trustees wanted to be comprehensive and were trying to compete direction with the other New York art museums. I think the galleries, which are split between two floors, are misconceived and should be redone and relocated if they get the fundraising. The three big groups of paintings galleries (old masters, impressionists, and modern) should be connected with each other. The out of the way galleries that currently hold the modern art collection could be used for special exhibitions, to bring the cafeteria in the basement to the first or second floors, and/ or the Pacific Art collection which doesn’t really fit well anywhere else.


    February 29, 2016 at 12:17 am

    • “in which case I don’t think you will care much about the $25”

      You missed the part that, by law, you are not required to pay that. In fact, they recently lost a class action lawsuit.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 29, 2016 at 12:21 am

      • I was going to post about the lawsuit, but I see Lion has beaten me to it!

        I always pay $1, in part because you can justify anything, in part because I am a cheap bastard, and in part because I often visit MOMA on the same trip, so the combined cost is reasonable. If the 19th century agreement was for a free museum, that should be honored, no?

        What really bothers me about the Met is the deception, the way that they trick everyone at the main entrance into thinking $25 is the actual fee. That’s a lot of money. $8-$12, that’s different. It really bothers me when I see families that come all the way from god knows where, 4,5,6 people, forking over more than $100. Serious money for them.

        I used to be afraid to pay $1, like I was scamming. But now, I just say, one ticket please, hand over the dollar, and get the ticket. There are no dirty looks, there isn’t even any sort of reaction.

        The whole situation, the way they hide the note about the suggested fee, turned me into a militant. I sometimes tell the people in front of me, especially students, that they only have to pay $1. Sometimes they don’t even believe me. I think this happened once when I told two Japanese students.

        The Shepherd

        February 29, 2016 at 6:35 am

  10. Other than Santa Anita, there’s no place I’d rather spend an afternoon. Did you visit Bruegel’s “The Harvesters”, since you like landscapes?


    February 29, 2016 at 4:58 am

  11. Truly, the Met is one of the few things to make the city worthwhile for a conservative. All the old glories of the West on display…


    February 29, 2016 at 8:47 am

    • For such things, the Frick Collection (not terribly far from the Met) is a must!


      February 29, 2016 at 9:40 am

      • Gonna go, Tnx.


        February 29, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    • The Met is great. Even if you haven’t figured out yet why great paintings are worth looking at, there are the armor and weapons galleries, the Greek vase galleries (the death of Sarpedon is sort of like the movie Patton on a greek vase, but better), and at Christmastime the fantastic Neapolitan creche and ornamented Christmas tree.

      howitzer daniel

      February 29, 2016 at 9:27 pm

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