Revival of Classics in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In April of 2007, Chris Lightfoot, along with three other curators, unveiled the new and improved exhibition of Greek and Roman art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Prior to the reconstruction of this permanent exhibition, the display collection had dwindled. During World War II, many of the finest pieces in the classics collection had been put away in storage in order to protect them during this turbulent time. Additionally, in 1940 the director of the museum decided to turn the central area of the building that contained the collection (the McKim, Mead, and White Building) into a restaurant.

The Classics Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

However, after being confined to storage for nearly 70 years, nearly 5,300 pieces are now on display in the museum. The project took fifteen years and $220 million to complete, topped off by 5-year project of completion of the main atrium. The collection includes many different types of art, including sculptures, high reliefs carvings, frescoes (both buon fresco and fresco secco style), and even ancient coins. Additionally, the collection contains several pieces mentioned specifically in Stokstad and Cothren, such as a marble female figure from 3000 BCE originating in the Cycladic Islands, and a ceramic flask covered in detailed paintings of sea life, dominated by a giant octopus. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website, it contains the “most comprehensive [collection] in North America” (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Marble Figure, c. 3000 BCE


“Http://” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Web. 22 Sept. 2011. <>.

Sloan, Gene. “Greek, Roman Art Come out of Hiding –” News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World – USA Today, 19 Apr. 2007. Web. 22 Sept. 2011. <>.

View the Collection

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2 Responses to Revival of Classics in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

  1. taanesta says:

    I recently go a chance to attend and lecture and some Q and A with Everett Fahy who was Chair of European Painting at the Met before his retirement in 2009. The question I was able to ask him was about Thomas Campbell being appointed director of the museum after Montebello stepped down. Thomas Campbell specializes in tapestries. Mr. Fahy informed me that his appointment was due largely to helping organize two very large specialized exhibitions, and his diligence when organizing these shows. Although shows like Alexander McQueen’s have been fiscally successful, I think with Campbell at the helm focused yet comprehensive shows of classic and medieval art will continue to thrive.

  2. Danny Anderson says:

    Very interesting post. I’m always amazed when I hear stories like this about incredible artifacts and pieces of art being kept in storage where no one can appreciate them. I guess it’s a small price to pay to ensure that these treasures are protected during construction or other situations that put them in danger but it just seems mind boggling to me.

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