I love the Met for the small shows they do. These shows are hardly ever reviewed or even publicized, so you have to find out about them either on the Met's website, spot them on the list of current exhibitions given out at the entrance, or, best of all, happen upon them as you walk around the museum. Usually these shows focus on a major work loaned to the Met for a short period, augmented by work from the permanent collection. Some of the most memorable have been Rembrandt at Work, The Great Self-Portrait from Kenwood House, from a few years ago; Velázquez's Portrait of Duke Francesco I d’Este: A Masterpiece from the Galleria Estense, Modena; and last year’s Goya and the Altamira Family.
One such small show currently at the Met is Innovation and Spectacle: Chinese Ritual Bronzes (through March 22nd).
|Second Floor, Asian Art, Gallery 207.|
|Ritual Wine Container in the Shape of a Buffalo, early fifth century B. C., Eastern Zhou dynasty, bronze (Shanghai Museum).|
|Detail: Ritual Wine Container in the Shape of a Buffalo, early fifth century B. C., Eastern Zhou dynasty, bronze (Shanghai Museum).|
|Altar Set, Shang and Western Zhou dynasties, late 11th century B. C., bronze, table is 7 ⅛ x 35 ⅜ x 18 ¼ inches.|
|Spouted ritual wine vessel (guang), Shang dynasty, early Anyang period (ca. 1300–1050 b.c.), bronze, 13 inches wide.|
Painting Music in the Age of Caravaggio (through April 5th).
|Painting Music in the Age of Caravaggio, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2nd floor, gallery 624.|
|Caravaggio, The Musicians, 1595, oil on canvas, 36 x 46 ½ inches (52.81).|
|Detail: Caravaggio, The Musicians, 1595.|
Another small show is Hans Hofmann: Selected Paintings (through July 5th). Like many of the other small shows, this is an opportunity to see work that's usually in storage. The Metropolitan Museum owns a lot of work by Hofmann – 15 paintings and 29 works on paper, but only one or two of them are usually on display.
|Hans Hofmann: Selected Paintings, 2nd floor, gallery 918.|
|Hans Hofmann, Renate's Nantucket, 1965, oil on canvas, 60 x 72 inches (1996.440.4).|
|Detail: Hans Hofmann, Renate's Nantucket, 1965. (This detail is redder than the painting.)|
And just like Cézanne, in order to simultaneously keep things flat and frontal (i.e."real"), everything is tied together, butted up to each other like a mosaic or puzzle. (See especially the right and top edge of the red/purple rectangle.)
Hofmann was a master of riffs and had a large bag of tricks he used and taught. One of my favorites can be seen in the detail above. The red small brushwork at the top of the rectangle looks like it's going underneath and making the purple rectangle seem redder; and the blue on the left looks like it also floats underneath, making the red more purple. Among other things, this keeps the rectangle from becoming solid, opaque and clogged up. Instead, it breaths and glows.
Warriors and Mothers: Epic Mbembe Art (through September 7th).
|Installation view, Warriors and Mothers: Epic Mbembe Art, 1st floor, gallery 359.|
These sculptures are almost three hundred years old, and because they were kept outside for most of that time, they are very eroded. They are the oldest wooden figures from Sub-Saharan Africa, and they're among the largest too (almost life-size).