March Thru Art At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

Do you ever notice that when you enter a museum, the volume of your voice immediately drops?  We speak in hushed tones; we are instantly humbled.  A museum commands respect from its visitors, much like a library silently requests quiet.  From dinosaurs to diamonds, landscape oils to whale oil, bronzes to busts, we are immediately attuned to important holdings and artifacts.  We innately know to speak reverentially low, although I have yet to see a sign in a museum requesting as such.  Our decorous mode of behavior around great art is intuitive, instinctive.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is inviting you to dramatically IGNORE this unwritten code of behavior.  They are asking that you alter your instincts and perceptions for one fun, free (with admission) upcoming Friday evening.

The Asphalt Orchestra (Photo Credit:

On Friday, January 20th at 4, 6 and 8pm the “Asphalt Orchestra” will be marching through the ground floor of the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we are all invited to witness this organized mayhem by literally joining the march to celebrate the opening of the MMA’s newly renovated American Wing.  Guaranteed, this 12-piece marching street band will provide a unique escort to these glorious American galleries.  This romp begins inside the main entrance to the museum (the Great Hall) then stomps through the remarkable Temple of Dendur (talk about acoustically correct!) before concluding at the Charles Engelhard Court, which generously initiates the American Wing.  They will be making some serious noise!

The “Asphalt Orchestra” is primarily a radical street band composed of percussion and brass instruments.  This joyous group will perform music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald of Broadway’s “Passing Strange” fame, with songs from Frank Zappa’s cacophonous canon, among other cutting edge musical selections.  This very special “march” will be accented by Susan Marshall’s choreography.  They have been described by Anthony Tommasini, the music critic of the NY Times, as “…part parade spectacle, part halftime show…” but trust me, this is not Rose Bowl entertainment!   Do not expect tight marching formations, tidy, militaristic uniforms nor dazzling flag bearers.  Expect a unique celebration of a relatively young country’s contribution to our world’s organic collection of global art. Attention must be paid: recognition is around the corner!

The MMA’s American Wing represents a visual narration of the history of the USA.  Its vast holdings–from 17th century Dutch furniture to a room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Tiffany glassware to the portraits of John Singer Sargent–are now world renown, and no longer subservient to the great European collections.  I have been particularly eager for the reopening of their oil painting section devoted to our great American painters.  There are now 25 enlarged, renovated galleries representing the best of American oils.

The MET Museum (Photo Credit:

At the core of this collection is the magnificent painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze.  The iconic paintings of Gilbert Stuart, the gorgeous Winslow Homer seascapes, the photographic accuracy of Thomas Eakins as well as my personal favorite, William Merritt Chase, just to mention a few artists, are still well represented.  However, the MMA is now augmenting its American painting section by permanently displaying the gritty works of the aptly named “Ashcan” school of American art.  Their realistic subject matter depicts street scenes, prostitutes and drunks as well as the poverty and grime inherent in our city’s working class environments…which brings us full circle to the upcoming celebratory inauguration led by the appropriately titled “Asphalt Orchestra.”

It just seems and sounds right, don’t you think?  A natural segue, from asphalt to ashcan.  Come see and hear for yourself.  Wear your Reeboks and expect an active sensory work out.  The austere Metropolitan Museum is about to rock…it’s about time!

Museum admission is a recommended $25 for adults, $17 for senior citizens, and $12 for students.  Children under 12 with an adult enter free. These costs are “suggested” admission charges.  Of course, you give what you can, it is up to you.

WHERE: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Avenue
New York, New York
WHAT: “March Thru Art” with the Asphalt Orchestra
WHEN: Friday, January 20th, 2012 at 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm

By: Joanne Theodorou