Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The grandeur of what was the original museum designed by Charles McKim before the modern addition completed by Renzo Piano in 2006, is really phenomenal. The rotunda is a study in marble, mosaics, painting and sculpture--really, absolutely beautiful. The spaces of the original museum are my favorites -- the library (see right) has on display one of the 3 Gutenberg Bibles in the Morgan collection, the librarian's office has stunningly detailed ancient stamps carved into stones, and, of course, the Pierpont Morgan study has an imposing, full-of-power feeling that I cannot adequately describe (you really need to just be there to feel the effects of the rich, burgundy wallpaper, the heavily carved ceiling, and the quirky, massive vault in the corner).
The more modern part of the museum (see left) is very different -- very airy, glass everywhere, and open spacially. It reminds me a little of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It is from this central lobby that you can get to the 2nd floor Engelhard Gallery where the diary exhibition is displayed. Frankly, I didn't think I would spend much time reviewing these one-of-a-kind items, but as I explored and listened to the self-directed audio tour (yes, this is free with admission), I began to appreciate the uniqueness of this collection and was quite moved. The lower level has an auditorium where they show a 15 minute film (every hour on the half hour) about Pierpont (the super industrialist and voracious art collecting father) and J.P. Morgan (the son who made the museum public) and the history and collection of the museum. It is well worth attending a showing, especially at the start to get you grounded. One particularly interesting art piece is the religious tryptic on the right side of the lobby that is supposed to have wood from the cross where Jesus was crucified.
Anyway, I had a good couple of hours and felt enriched by the experience. The gift shop is also worth a visit (with very good copies of some art from the Morgan collection, although pretty pricey for gift shop fare), and you don't have to pay the museum entrance fee ($15 for adults and $10 for seniors, students and children under 16) to either shop there or dine in the dining room. I went to the museum on a weekday and not during free hours (every Friday from 7-9pm) and it was very pleasant and not crowded. It was a great way to dwell in areas and enjoy certain works of art I liked without feeling pressed.