The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reopened its doors on August 27th, after being closed for five months.
The first two days of the reopening were for members only. The general public will be admitted on the 29th. Attendance is limited to 2,000 visitors per hour and 14,000 per day to allow for proper social distancing. Timed tickets are required, as well as temperature checks and face masks. Restroom capacity is limited to three people at a time, and elevator capacity is limited to two, with priority for people with disabilities. The museum has 2.2 million square feet of galleries, so social distancing is not difficult.
An extra perk at The Met is valet parking for bicycles, since the pandemic has led to the use of bicycles by more New Yorkers than ever before. One of the current exhibits at The Met is Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, a series of works by American icon, Jacob Lawrence.
Jacob Lawrence 1917-2000
As a teenager in the 1930s, Jacob Lawrence would walk the 50-odd blocks from the apartment he shared with his mother in Harlem to study early Italian Renaissance paintings at the Met. And in 1941, Lawrence’s Migration series, about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South after World War I, which had brought his own family north, was acquired and split between MoMA and the Phillips Collections in Washington. He was 24 at the time.
The works currently on display at The Met are from Lawrence’s Struggle: From the History of the American People series, done from 1954 through 1956. The series is made up of thirty paintings, that represent historical moments in American history from 1775 through 1817 and highlights the role of African-Americans.
The series was first shown in a New York gallery in 1956 after which the paintings were dispersed. More than sixty years later, twenty-five of the thirty panels were collected and shown at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts before beginning a national tour.
Jacob Lawrence studied art at the WPA’s Harlem Art Workshop. He spent many hours in the public library, doing research, before beginning his works. He was drafted into the United States Coast Guard during World War ll and served as a public affairs specialist with the first racially integrated crew on the USCGC Sea Cloud.
In 1974, the Whitney Museum staged a retrospective of Lawrence’s works, which traveled around the U.S. He taught at Pratt Institute from 1958 to 1970, at the New School for Social Research from 1966 to 1969, and in 1969 became a full professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Jacob Lawrence’s works are in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, the Brooklyn Museum, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, the Museum of Northwest Art and other major galleries. His 1947 painting The Builders hangs in the White House.
Hakim Bishara. We Visited the New, Socially Distant Metropolitan Museum After Its Five-month Closure. Hyperallergic. August 28, 2020.
Michael Kimmelman. In His Own Words: Jacob Lawrence at the Met and MoMA. August 27, 2020.
Sebastian Smee. These ‘missing’ Jacob Lawrence paintings are finally in a museum — and they’re masterpieces. The Washington Post. January 24, 2020.