Met’s Old Masters galleries reopen

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s galleries for European paintings made between 1250 and 1800 open to the public on 23 May, visitors will experience a collection transformed and refreshed, the result of two years of expansion and rethinking. The renovation of the galleries is long overdue, last undertaken in full in the early 1950s. When the Met’s then director Thomas Hoving inaugurated the age of the blockbuster in the early 1970s, one third of the space, then given over to Impressionism and contemporary art, was turned into galleries for temporary exhibitions. The impetus for the new, expanded galleries was the 2007 re-installation of the Met’s collection of ancient Greek and Roman art, which reclaimed space that had been taken from the collection in 1949 by the Fountain restaurant. “We felt that if [the] Greek and Roman [collection] could get [its] old space back, we hoped for an arrangement to get some of our old space back," says says Keith Christiansen, the chairman of the European paintings department. "But when we approached our director, Tom Campbell, he said: ‘Why don’t you just take it all?’”