The Met Fifth Avenue welcomes millions each year—yet even on on the most crowded days, visitors can find calming spaces in which to escape and recharge. As the Museum remains closed to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, we hope you’ll enjoy this virtual visit to a few of our most tranquil galleries (many with subtle, soothing water features). And that you’ll keep this list handy as a guide when we’re all able to visit The Met once again.
Tucked away among The Met’s galleries for Japanese art, Isamu Noguchi’s Water Stone provides a sublime complement to painted scrolls, ceramics, and other artworks worth long contemplation. Set among smooth pebbles and shaded by a wooden screen, the rock weighs as much as a car—yet you’ll have to listen carefully to hear water burbling out from its center, thanks to the precise alignment of its planar surface.
Wing of Desire
Filtered from skylights through elegantly stepped louvers, natural light gently illuminates paintings in the Robert Lehman Collection. This remarkable bequest, ranging from Renaissance bronzes through Post-Impressionist paintings, went on display to the public in its own Museum wing in 1975. Small interior galleries (meant to suggest the collector’s town house on West 54th Street) open on to an airy central court—a tranquil environment in which to admire an astonishing variety of masterpieces.
The Patti Cadby Birch Court mixes old and new to suggest the continuity of artistic tradition in the Arab world. Starting with 14th-century columns originally built for the Alhambra, a team of Moroccan designers added tiled walls, carved arches, and scalloped eaves surrounding a small fountain, creating a superb ambiance that enhances appreciation for Islamic art.
Court of Appeal
The Charles Engelhard Court in the American Wing is hardly off the beaten track for Met visitors. Yet even when filled with art lovers admiring its grand sculptures, many created for outdoor display, the soaring space rarely feels crowded. As you admire Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Diana, the reconstructed facade from the United States Branch Bank, stained-glass creations by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and other large-format examples of American creativity and ingenuity, you might just feel an uplifting surge of patriotic pride.
The Met’s Beaux-Arts architecture provides the perfect frame for superb Roman sculptures in the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court. Whether awash in natural light during the day or illuminated with spotlights by night, this dramatic display embodies the aspirational ambitions of great art museums.
A Ming Thing
Named for the great Met benefactress and society doyenne Brooke Astor—who spent part of her childhood in Shanghai—the Astor Court, open in 1981, was constructed by 26 craftsmen from China using principles developed in the 17th century, during the Ming dynasty. The superb harmony of the court’s pagoda roofs, colonnades, constructed rock features, and plantings bespeak the continuity of Chinese artisanal traditions across centuries. Such principles are works of art in themselves.