Inside the Met


Inside The Met: Love and Money

As the glamorous, highly-anticipated Costume Institute show “About Time” comes together, museum staff wonders who will pay for new acquisitions, the crucial but very costly research and conservation work, and infrastructure projects vital to the survival of an antique building.

AIRED: May 28, 2021 | 0:54:55

-This is the largest art museum in the Americas.

Five floors high, four city blocks long.

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art

is 2.3 million square feet of treasure.

-The museum was largely an audacious vision.

-I just want to be surrounded by art and beauty.

-In 2020, The Met turned 150.

The museum planned an anniversary year

nobody would forget.

-I'm this excited!

-Every year we're pumping out something pretty amazing.

-But as the revels began, COVID struck New York.

-There are new warnings about the coronavirus outbreak.

-For the first time ever, The Met closed indefinitely.

-Walking through the museum with 5,000 years

of the greatest works of art, it's a spiritual experience.

-With the future unknown, was its survival in question?

-This is an exhibition install, frozen in time.

-This is a reminder that we can overcome --

[ Sobbing ]

-In the summer, the urgent need for social justice,

highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement,

had the museum promising to change.

But how to pay for it?

The Met now faces a COVID cash crisis.

-They come to you, for the money?

-And I've got find the money to do it.

-Systemic change will be costly.

And what about conservation and research?

-For me this piece is not, not very big.

To finish this one, two years.

-Who will fund new acquisitions?

-I don't think I will see this rarity

and beauty on the market again.

-And the blockbuster exhibitions that keep the coffers full.

-It's a massive undertaking.

-I mean, it's the best for costuming,

it's the best for fashion.

-The Met has always relied on patrons and donors.

But in these dark times, does philanthropy still exist?

-The truth of the matter is,

nobody can really take care of 403 guitars.

-It's fall 2020.

America is slowly turning orange.

But at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art,

they're feeling blue.

There's a cash crisis to the tune of around $150 million.

Safety concerns mean visitor numbers

and income are restricted.

Once, 25,000 people came through these doors every day.

Now it's 5,000 at most.

-I would give them a chance.

Give them a chance to get their stride.

It's like you're coming out of a cocoon.

-Nine months into The Met's 150th year,

President Dan Weiss is philosophical.

-The world has changed in such seismic and remarkable ways,

I think it's important to be mindful of the many things

I don't know and cannot do.

And therefore to be appreciative of others

who can do those things.

The violin on my wall reminds me both of its beauty,

its magnificence,

but also of when I aspired to learn to play it.

And in very short order, my teacher concluded

I didn't have an ear for music

and I would never be able to learn to play the violin.

I suspect as a teacher, she was a complete failure.

But I look at this instrument and I'm reminded of both things.

It is one of the great objects

of the musical universe for me...

and, boy, I cannot play it.

I just don't know how.

But I love to watch people who do.

Most people think leadership is about having the answers,

knowing everything, telling everybody what to do.

And I -- I don't see it that way.

Any leadership job is really about empowering other people

to do what they can do better than anyone else.

And I'm very good at surrounding myself with people

who are a lot more talented than I am.

-Safety concerns mean that Dan is in fact surrounded

only by essential staff.

-We gotta go slow, guys.

-The heavy lifting team are in,

moving a 9th century megalith leant by a Senegalese museum.

-All right, let's stop, guys.

-Conservators have to be present.

-It is nice to come into the museum and do our job.

I don't think any of us will ever forget this year.

It's like a mile marker.

It's gonna be before and after, this year.

-Watch that corner, Derek. -When they first started

talking about the 150th anniversary,

I remember doing that quick calculation in my head,

I'm like, "Oh, my God that's an election year."

And I just knew it was gonna be a crazy year.

But I don't think -- [ Laughs ]

any of us could have imagined the levels.

-Project manager Margaret Choo

has been working from home for six months.

The avid baker had been asked to make

The Met's official 150th birthday cake,

but had to eat it herself in March and much of April.

-I was super excited to make it.

I'd had ideas of what kind of decorations I would do

and what kind of flavors I would do.

And when it didn't happen it was kind of crushing.

-Today, she has permission to return to the museum.

-I'm actually really excited, I get a chance

to make something,

at least that some people, um, can enjoy at the museum.

This part is my favorite, decorating the cake.

Putting all the things that really make it like, a wow!

Like, a reason to celebrate.

I haven't been back in over six months,

which is the longest I haven't been there

in almost 10 years.

Seeing the pictures from the opening day

and how totally jubilant and excited people were,

it shocked me to see how needed it was.

I'm feeling pretty nervous. Just not knowing what to expect.

You know, the stickers on the floor and signs,

that just wasn't a part of the museum when I left it.

Hi, Clyde. -Hi there!

Oh, my gosh!

-On the Executive Floor,

The Met's birthday year has been memorable,

but not in a good way. -What is inside?

-So this is like a vanilla with raspberry jam.


-And the bottom one is a chocolate...

-Chocolate. -...espresso whiskey.

-Margaret's 30,000 calorie cake will have a lot of work to do.

-You should get a cake, too!

What is this? Yeah, everyone, yeah.

-It's not quite the celebration Director Max Hollein

had planned, but it's a start.

-Margaret, this is quite delicious.

-Thank you.

-You're gonna have to try both of them.

-You have to. -Oh, my God!

-Clyde B. Jones III is the first to admit that times are hard.

It's his job to match sponsors and money

to exhibitions and events.

Ken Weine is in charge of Met Communications.

-The numbers have been "meh" the last couple of weeks.

We can only go to about 5,000.

And some days during the week has been as low as 2,800.

When we reopened, there was this huge, giant

appetite among many. -Right.

-But now that school is back and whatnot.

-Cases rising in the city,

people are just a little bit more reluctant to go out.

We can't bring donors back.

We can't do -- we can't do stewardship.

We can't invite people in.

-You're in the relationship business.

-That's right. -How do you do relations

in this... -How do you do relationships

when you can't see people.

-Even our staff of almost 2,000...

we asked back, I don't know, 400-ish.

To the others we said, please don't come back.

Because the only way we can open the museum

was to be as skinny a Met as possible.

You know, it's like a wildfire

across the cultural landscape and -- and who can,

um, survive in the long run

is really, really gonna be scary.

I mean, we're not going anywhere in terms of improving,

until Europeans are allowed to fly here.

New York City enjoyed a million visitors

from China last year for the first time ever.

The Met was their number one destination.

How many years is it gonna take for that, um,

group to come back?

A very loyal, wonderful group of, uh,

visitors who spend a lot of money.

-Every single constituency of the museum

is gonna have to come together to get us back to --

to where we were.

It's gonna be the funders, it's gonna be the visitors,

because people have to be willing to come back

into the museum in greater numbers than they are right now.

The community is going to have to come together in a way to,

to encourage...

just civic engagement.


-Income from visitors keeps the building open

and the lights on.

Four blocks long, five stories high,

2.3 million square feet under 14 acres of roof,

six of them of glass.

Patrons and foundations donate huge sums to The Met,

but mostly for the acquisition and care of art.

Not many bequests cover photocopiers, floor polishers,

or lifts like this that retail at around $50,000.

-We call it spider rig.

-Or this team showing how many people it takes

to screw in a light bulb.

-I know it's a joke, but we do more than changing light bulbs.

But we have between 60,000 to 70,000 light fixtures

throughout the building.

It's a complicated job, believe it or not.

-Clyde Jones has an inspiring view of the glass roofs.

Being replaced at a cost of $150 million,

his department finds new donors.

-Much of what we do is a personal connection --

having people in the museum, having them see the objects,

having them engage with the exhibitions.

We have been able to engage with folks in small groups.

But it's a whole lot more difficult

to do a hundred engagements

with two people,

than it is to do one engagement with 200 people

It's through the generosity of individuals and corporations

and foundations that we're able to be here at all.

-The imminent remodeling of the Arts of Africa, Oceania,

and Ancient Americas galleries,

required donors working together.

-There are structural issues with these windows.

They're the same as there are in the Temple of Dendur --

but that's north facing and this is south facing.

There are objects in here

that cannot be in the direct southern sun.

So these windows have had to be shaded

which is really unfortunate.

It's dark and it's enclosed.

I mean, that sort of points to deepest, darkest Africa,

when in fact those cultures are bright,

and they're open, and they're sunny,

and the space should reflect that.

And I've gotta find the money to do it. Right, exactly.

People said, "Oh, you're not gonna be able to raise money

for Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

There's no -- no -- there are no young people

who are interested in that."

But we found that that was in fact not the case.

We've raised about 90% of the money before COVID.

There are a lot of people who care about the many cultures

that are represented in these galleries.

We've got to figure out what people are passionate about

and help them find that passion here in the walls of The Met.

There are still collectors in the vein

of the Rockefellers and the Havemeyers.

But the regular member,

the person who makes a gift of $25 to the museum

because they had a great time,

those people are just as important.


-Many senior staff salaries are paid for by donor bequests.

Head of Paintings Conservation, Michael Gallagher,

is one of them.

After months at home,

he has permission to return to a passion project

he had to abandon in March 2020.

-My first day back and I completely choked up.

To be back in here, to be handling an object again,

I had a wave of, "Oh, my God,

I've forgotten how much I love this.

What an incredible privilege it is."

This was a new discovery,

the Bohemian Picture by the master of Vyssí Brod.

When I saw this picture in Paris,

the background was entirely over-painted.

But there was a suggestion

of an intact original background underneath.

So we took that risk.

In fact the Chair of the Acquisitions Committee

said, "On a scale of one to 10,

how sure are you, you can get that over-paint off

and that the original's intact underneath?"

And for no good reason I said a nine.

Um, and -- [ Laughs ]

Could have been -- could have been the end of things.

-The painted panel was priceless.

One slip, and The Met could have an interesting plank.

-The removal of the over-paint all takes place

under the microscope.

The pigment's imbibed a lot of varnish over the years.

You can see the color change where there's some varnish

been taken off here,

and where it is still on here.

The color palette has been looked --

a sort of shock to everyone.

This painting was from the middle of the 14th century

so it's an incredible survivor.

I'm saving removing the varnish

from the central figure group till the end.

That will be like dessert, um... [ Laughs ]

because it -- it'll be straightforward.

The varnish on the very top is probably a late 19th century,

early 20th century.

The over-paint is quite a bit older than that.

One of the frustrations of getting older in conservation

is just as you feel that your judgment is getting better

is when your eyesight starts to go.

[ Laughs ]

-COVID's made economy essential,

but following hunches is part of the job.

Where does Michael stand now?

-Right now there is no question we would not be

probably pursuing the acquisition.

I don't think I could

responsibly take that risk again.


-A few days later, Head of European Paintings,

Keith Christiansen, arrives.

Soon to retire, he's come to revel.

-It's really amazing.

I think people will be bowled over by this.

It's the color, the brilliance of this background.

It's just extraordinary -- I don't think

I will ever see this rarity

and beauty on the market again.

-Yeah. This will have been

a very inexpensive picture for what it is.

It was about $6 million, yeah, yeah.

Which sounds like -- which -- which sounds like a lot.

But for something of this rarity and beauty

it's actually not that much.

I can tell you right now there are a number of collectors

who would jump at this right now.

And we're not buying for the short term,

we're buying for the long term.


the next generation will not even think

about what it was paid.

All they will be pleased is that it's here

and that they can see it.

The obligation of a great museum is the movement of things

from the private sphere into the public sphere.

There's not a visitor who doesn't go

into the Van Gogh Gallery

and is grateful for the occasion of seeing them.

And who cares that this museum spent

$60 million for the landscape with cypresses?!

All they know is that standing in front of it is something

that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

However, following COVID

and the financial -- really -- disaster

that has been part of it,

and with all the staff cuts that we've had,

it would be very difficult to justify

spending that kind of money.

However, a generation later they would look back

and say, "Gee, that was a shame that the museum

didn't have the foresight to do this."

You know, I'm glad I'm not in that position.

That's the Director's job,

to juggle long term mission

with what we're doing in a real crisis right now.

-The cash crisis has led to a freeze on acquisitions.

But just conserving the museum's existing collections takes time,

and time is money.

For now, in the textile labs,

Anna Szalecki is still able to take her time.

-This is special because this is 14th century.

So this is part of really huge history.

Bringing back this tapestry to the beauty,

I forget my neck is hurts or eyes hurt.

I work so many years on the conservation field,

but when I finish my career it will be something,

something unique done.

For me this piece is not -- not very big

for castle, this is small size.

I really work on carpets and tapestries, huge tapestries.

To finish this one, two years it will be done.

I do fast as, as much as I can.

But because this is unique, I have to do in a very good way.

It's not like the museum has exhibition

and put back and spend this 20 years in storage,

and hang only one year or two years.

But this one, it will hang 100 years.

-Department Head Dr. Janina Poskrobko

has a large, highly trained team.

She knows personnel and projects could be in jeopardy.

-We needed a lot of time for research, for study,

and more and more, museum's funds being restricted.

I've never told Anna this but, uh,

I expected this project would have not been funded for long.

-A week later, at home on Staten Island,

Janina is up early to say her prayers.

Today the Head of Textile Conservation

is catching an early ferry for Manhattan.

Professor Walter Denny is coming for breakfast.

He heads a group of textile friends and supporters.

-These are the people who are supposed to help us,

maybe not that they will donate money to us,

but maybe they will be able to bring us donors.

-Janina hopes Walter can help her with her fundraising drive.

-Walter probably will be hungry because his drive

from Massachusetts is very long.

This is Polish sausage called Kabanosy.

Tomatoes and dried apples and Polish bread and...

Polish peach cake.

Walter is a friend. He is a fantastic scholar.

-The Professor is a frequent visitor

but somehow remains trim.

He's really here for the love of textiles.

-In 2007, when I came down here for the first time,

I stumbled into one of

the most marvelous experiences of my life.

-This is one of the priority projects,

the King Arthur Tapestry.

-And one of the most famous objects in The Met.

-Would you like to see the Barberini coat?


-Janina unveils another treasure.

Might Walter elicit donations for this project

from other fabric fanciers?

-We're just letting it rest quietly so that

we can get into the case

and it's pretty amazing actually.

-And it's got the busy little bees of the Barberini family

right down there.

-It became very clear that in this very difficult time

it is really my role increasing,

in terms of -- [ Laughs ] finances.

-It's an amazing object.

And I'm so glad that it's finally gonna go out on display.

-The loveliness of the cape is enveloping Walter,

when Janina makes her move.

-So we had this great Ottoman robe

from 18th century. -Yeah.

-But it required a lot of conservation.

But it's complete piece so we can think about it.

-As long as someone would come up with the funds to do it.

-Janina's given it her best shot.

Walter knew she had to ask.

-From the point of view of someone who has...

very little in the way of money to give,

but he gives everything that he can,

what binds people together

and the relationship between the museum

and its public, is in fact enthusiasm,

love, excitement, and passion.

This is a passion.

Not only that, the nice thing about this passion is it's not

quite as infectious as COVID, but if you're eloquent enough

you can infect other people with it.


-So I was wondering if you could speak a little bit

to how you work inter-departmentally.

-The Met is working to ignite the passion

in the next generation by recruiting interns.

120 young people promise to give the museum

the greatest gift of all -- a future.

-I was curious about the collaborations

between paintings conservation at The Met with...

-The Head of Education is watching

an online mentoring session.

The Met is committed to creating a more diverse workforce.

A recent $5 million bequest provides each intern

with a salary.

-The intern program

immediately opens up and diversifies.

And by diversity, I don't just mean, you know,

differences you can see, but in points of view.

The idea is to bring in young scholars

with different ways of seeing the world.

Begin there, and as they do their research

and they move on in their careers

they will ask different questions.

They would question the established canons.

And it would shift the field more or less

from the inside out.

I think it can start happening as early as five years,

as these people graduate from school, you know,

and beginning to get into entry level positions and going forth.

And, you know, we've just did the first 150 years.

I would hope the next 150 years will be completely different.

-A Californian of Vietnamese descent,

Kevin Pham is an intern with the Medieval Department.

-This is so incredible.

-And this is your first time the Cloisters, right?

-The Met Cloisters is his official base,

but COVID meant he could never visit in person --

until today. the space...

-He's bought co-intern Shania Johnson with him --

on the phone.

-One of my professors back home told me about the internship,

and how could I pass up an opportunity like The Met?

-The Met Cloisters is a network of medieval buildings,

home to a collection of objects that, until now,

the interns have only experienced virtually.

-Oh, my, those vaulted ceilings!

-I know, right?

-Being paid to study makes interning possible

for students from communities and backgrounds

under-represented in The Met's staff lists.

-My family, my parents, my grandparents,

they never had the opportunities to go to museums,

to enjoy artwork,

to understand art.

And that's something that I'm fighting for --

that a lot of my peers are fighting for, too.

We're fighting to be in these places,

not just as guests admiring the artwork,

but doing this kind of work as well.

I still love the little detail of

baby Jesus tugging on the first King's, like,

hair like that.

-It froze a little bit. -Oh, whoops!

Hello, hello, hello?

-Kevin's main mission today is to see a 16th century book

of flower paintings he's marveled at online.

-Hi, Shania. -Hello.

-I'm so glad you can be here to see this.

So what we're looking at is a book of flower illustrations

that dates to the early 1500s.

So we're looking at a roughly 500-year-old book here.

-And every single flower depicted, we grow...

-Absolutely. the gardens here.

-That was actually gonna be my question.

I'm glad to know that that's happening.

-Yeah, this manuscript provides a bridge between,

you know, the works of art that we have on display

and the natural works of art that we have outside.


-I really don't know what to say!

[ Laughs ] I'm just so overwhelmed

by the beauty of all of it.

This opportunity is just once in a lifetime,

to be able to work on these masterpieces

and to be here in person now to see them as well.

I feel like I'm just like on the edge of tears constantly,

just looking at all of this.

You really can't replicate this experience online at all.

And The Met certainly has a lot of work to do,

but I'm here and I'm an intern,

that's definitely something.

And I'm not the only one as well.

And we're here because we love art,

and that shouldn't be limited to, you know,

rich old white men with beards. [ Laughs ]

It should be for everyone.

-From the day it opened,

The Met has relied on philanthropy --

gifts of money and precious objects.

In 2019 the Musical Instruments Department exhibition,

"Play It Loud," featured 130 instruments,

many of them lent by rock legends.

Guitarist Steve Miller sent his unique Gibson Les Paul.



Jayson. -Hey, Steve!

-How are ya? -I'm good, we can't see you yet.

-Miller has been a key donor to The Met for years.

He knows that, right now, the museum needs friends

to rally round.

-That's been 10 years now, so...

-2011, yeah. -Yeah, yeah.

-And is it -- gosh, we've done three shows

and it's just been fantastic.

To actually have an input is really gratifying,

and it's so important for just our culture,

for all of us to support our museums.

We're fortunate that we live in a time

when we have these institutions.

-For now he can't enter the museum,

but Miller calls, asking curator Jayson Dobney

to help him edit his massive guitar collection.

-How many guitars do you have?

-Well, I have I think

405 instruments in my collection.

And, well, now I have to say 403,

because I've given you two of them,

the two best ones. -Two magnificent ones.

-The truth of the matter is,

nobody can really take care of 403 guitars.

I have my first guitar, I still have three of 'em

that I play all the time.

So I'm totally happy

making the collection accessible to other people,

and to have other people play the instruments.

So that they don't just sit there in a glass box.

-The guitar celebrates a great maker

and a special relationship.

-My godfather was Les Paul,

and I was around Les when I was --

started from the time I was like 5 years old.


I play electric guitar like he did.

Les Paul developed a lot of the tools

that we use in recording, and besides all that,

he was one of the greatest guitar players in the world!

For me it's a great, great opportunity

to be useful, really.

So what the -- and nothing could be

better than that, so... -Gosh, Steve,

thank you so much.

-The Les Paul will join the museum's

permanent collection of important guitars.

Exhibitions like "Play It Loud"

surprise those who think The Met's just

marble and old masters.

The Costume Institute doesn't do dowdy.

Their annual exhibition is always an extravaganza.

Fashionably on time,

the department is preparing

their anniversary year blockbuster show.

-These are the biggest exhibitions that we do

at The Met, without a doubt.

Broadway theater is probably

the closest to this kind of level of production.

-"About Time" needs to draw crowds

and make a big statement --

The Met's still got it.

-It's a massive undertaking.

Of course this was conceived of before everything happened,

and actually completely built.

And it had to sit in the production company warehouse

for three months until we could bring them in.

-This is the type of show visitors

expect from The Met, from a time before COVID

when the place was awash with cash.

Much of the money came from the 2019 Met Ball,

the gala event that every year

funds the museum's Costume Institute.

Gotham's glossiest social event brings out the stars

for the ultimate photo opportunity.

Designers dress them in couture

that echoes the theme of the annual exhibition.

But in 2020, COVID has taken the ball away.

The Costume Institute's Head Curator will miss the money

but also the glow the event provides.

-The show gets so much attention through the attention

the gala gets, it's such a... extraordinary moment.

The show really basks in its reflected glory.

And it's also, you know, it's a time for the community

to come and celebrate fashion.

So, that's been sad.

-Bolton's made "About Time"

a meditation for The Met's anniversary year.

Lead designer Patrick Herron

has made the passage of time central to the setting.

-There are two different clocks, clock one, clock two.

We're in, currently in clock two.

-So it's 120 garments in 60 pairings.

-The show looks at fashion and temporality.

We wanted to highlight master works from our collection.

And we had this concept of The Met's 150 years.

So we're producing two timelines.

The lower rung is a very linear chronology of fashion,

but the second timeline behind, pieces that relate through

either silhouette or material or motif or decoration.

So through these sort of pairings,

rather than having time as a succession of events,

it's this coexistence of the past and the present.

What the show tries to also address is notions of longevity

and how particular motifs or silhouettes endure.

This one's one of my favorite juxtapositions.

So this is the princess line.

And it was a silhouette that basically

had no waist seam.

But what it does is create a very elongated torso,

elongated silhouette.

And I've paired it with McQueen's Bumster.

Everyone used to say he was inspired by the builder's bum.

But he was really looking at the princess line.

By having trousers -- in this case a skirt --

that slipped down, you have the same elongated torso.

The rationale for black was any monochrome color,

but particularly black, emphasizes the form of a dress.

-It's art as theater.

This off-Broadway production costs a fortune.

But the institute has help in kind, as well as in cash.

Like all Met departments,

they rely on the kindness of strangers

and the closest of friends.

While fashion fans await the opening of "About Time,"

"In Pursuit Of Fashion" keeps them engaged --

a presentation of rare couture

from the archives of collector Sandy Schreier.

In 2018,

she donated 165 garments to the Costume Institute.

The department is used to dedicated followers of fashion,

but to Associate Curator Jessica Regan,

Miss Schreier is one of a kind.

-Sandy was really ahead of her time

in thinking about fashion as an art form.

She was building what she saw as a collection,

as a group of objects that were worthy of preserving.

You know, that is a unique thing among fashion collectors.

She collected very instinctively but she had an incredible eye,

and of course she developed this great

level of kind of connoisseurship,

this collection is inherently a reflection

of her taste, of course, but also her personality,

because these selections were so personal.

And she has a wonderful sense of humor.

She always said to us that this was something

that was fun for her.

I think that she very much appreciates designers

who, you know embrace that sense of wit

and playfulness and fun.

We did make a great number of visits and,

you know, spent a lot of time just chatting

about her collection.

And she always had the most wonderful stories.

-Sandy lives 600 miles west, in Detroit, Michigan.

-From the opening of The Met exhibition, everybody was saying

that this was the greatest thing they had ever seen --

because it's a fairytale.

You know, I never knew that my life was a fairytale

until they said that.

-In the '50s, Sandy's father was the furrier

who dressed the wives of Motor City magnates.

-They thought I was adorable.

They thought I looked like a little Shirley Temple.

And they began gifting me with their unwanted,

and very often,

sometimes, unworn couture.

And that's how my collection began.

They all thought I was gonna play dress up

in the objects they were giving me.

But I never even tried them on.

I felt that they were too precious to even touch.

By the time I was in my early teens,

I already had hundreds of these beautiful, gorgeous gowns.

Although everyone in Detroit made fun of me -- my friends,

my relatives, everybody said,

"Oh, my goodness, you're just a bag lady."

I mean, they didn't have that expression in those days,

but I was the little girl with bags of old clothes.

-Sandy had in fact amassed one of the most important

private collections in America.

-What I care about is fashion as art.

When Sherwin and I were teenagers,

I persuaded my parents to loan us the car --

and I didn't tell them where we were going --

and we drove to New York so I could show Sherwin The Met.

And as we walked through the galleries,

I said to Sherwin,

"One day, my beautiful dresses

are going to be right here."

-The garments could have gone to any museum,

but to collectors like Sandy, only The Met will do.

Their donations are about love.

In East Harlem, Naqiya Hussain

is also about to become a Met donor.

She's investing $20 on two tickets

to the most romantic destination in town.

-This is a date dress, I would say.

I think it's maybe not right.

I'm gonna go try something else on.

-Met dates are all the rage.

Like so many Manhattan youths,

Naqiya and her beau, Cyril, have, for months,

been locked down -- going out but staying in.

-The challenge has been finding...

things to do and ways to be romantic.

The bigger question isn't the dress,

the bigger question is the accessories.

Except you can't really think about shoes.

Not if you have a date at the museum.


you have to wear...

something that won't destroy your back.

Have you heard of the museum shuffle?

It's when you just -- your feet start hurting

so you start just doing this.

The Met for me is my place.

I'm very familiar with the space.

I really love being there,

so to be able to share that with someone is exciting.

Even if you're not interested in art,

it's not even about beauty, it's about...

about having conversations about how ridiculous something looks,

or how something makes you laugh or reminds you of something.

Makeup time.

I mean, the little makeup I will do.

I would never take someone to The Met on a first date.

It's too important a space for me.

It's like you have to earn...

you have to earn that, for me to be able to feel like,

"Okay this is a person who I think we will have a good..."

I don't wanna be in that space and not enjoy myself.

It's like meeting your family.

You have to earn that. [ Laughs ]

For me, you have to earn The Met.

We've been to the museum once before,

this will be the first where it's just the two of us.

-Your hand is cold. -My hand is cold?

It's cold outside.

Took you forever to get here. [ Laughs ]

-Dates at The Met are a litmus test for love.

If the million objects on display

fail to spark conversation,

you know for certain it's never going to work.

-I'm excited to share it with him.

This is from where my mom grew up.

And talk more and get him to open up about parts of his life

that maybe didn't occur to him to talk to me about.

-With so few visitors allowed, the museum feels empty.

Naqiya and Cyril enjoy the tranquility of solitude

in the Asian Department.

-Oh, this one's really cool too, look.

Oh, this would have been painted.

I do not look like that.

What do you mean?

[ Laughs ]


I think if you're the kind of person

who enjoys being in museums,

then it's nice to have a partner

who also potentially can find joy in it.

But if your partner absolutely hates it,

then I would imagine it would make

a really boring date, right?

Around this corner should be my favorite object.

Look at it!

The Striding Figure With Ibex Horns and Upturned Boots.

And no pants.

It feels like someone with a sense of humor made him.

That didn't occur to me, but sure.

Also like, why boots but no pants?

I love him.

So like this is all carved plaster.

The Moroccan Court is one of my favorite places in the museum.

It's intimate and it's a moment to just breathe and relax.

To do that and feel safe,

given everything that's been happening with COVID,

it feels exceptionally lucky

to be able to have access to things like that.

Yeah, I think so.

Well, none of the security guards scolded us

so I think that's a win.



This one? -Yeah.

-For now, yeah.

[ Laughs ]

-Occupying a five-block-long site on 5th Avenue,

The Met exerts a magnetic pull on the art-fancying rich.

-Good girl.

-Every evening Dan Weiss walks his dog Ali

along the west side of the street,

knowing he's just feet from millions of dollars of treasure.

-Well, one of my predecessors said that

one of the missions of this museum

is to get all of the art on that side of the street

onto this side of the street.

And for 150 years this is what we've been doing.

Our building is filled with art

that used to be across the street.

What a good girl!

-We live right across the street.

Some of the exhibitions do have lines that go

right in front of our -- our -- the sidewalk here.

-And we're fortunate to have The Met as our neighbor.

We look out and we see the Temple of Dendur

and the northern part of the museum.

-We've been married 63 years.

-That's all.

-We first started collecting posters.

-Then we went to prints.

Then we graduated to paintings.

-Oils, paintings. -Oils and period furniture.

Some ancient textiles.

Glass, contemporary paintings.

-Their floors are groaning under the weight

but their greatest passion is as light as air.

-We have a wonderful bamboo collection.

We walked into a gallery,

Diane said, "I've never seen anything quite like these.

These are just wonderful."

A spark went off and we decided

that we would try to put together a collection.

-Within 20 years their collection numbered 130 pieces,

built with the help of their neighbors across the street.

-So this artist dips it into hot water to make it soft.

And then he bends it.

-Monika Bincsik and others

have become part of our family in a sense,

as we have become part of The Met family.

-In 2017, Monika and the Abbeys staged an exhibition.

It revealed that this specialized art

was no niche interest.

-We had over 430,000 people.

-We -- we were speechless, really.

We didn't have really any idea about the quality;

we knew it was terrific,

but we -- we were not, uh...

It was just for us.

-We did it because we loved it.

We feel that it's only fair for the world to see them.

-Its like what you do with your children.

I mean they -- you have them

only for a certain period of time.

-And out -- and out they go.


-On October 29th, "About Time" opens.

The annual Costume Institute's exhibition is still a big draw.

New York has always been America's fashion capital.

The faithful turn out in droves

for Andrew Bolton's costume drama.

-The Met gala was cancelled so the,

like, the exhibition is very, very anticipated.

-I mean, it's the best for costuming...

-Yeah.'s the best for fashion.

-Head of Security Keith Prewitt

makes his own fashion statement.

-I've always attributed the way that I dress

to my time in the Secret Service.

When you're with the president and vice president

of the United States, you have to be dressed accordingly so.

Yes, I was -- or navy blue or Cambridge grey.

This is the fall edition. [ Laughs ]

-The churn of time is the engine of the modern fashion industry.

Andrew Bolton's exhibition

invites contemplation of things eternal.

-It's been really cool to see people really getting deep

into observing the comparisons.

And then they come through this way,

and they sort of are amazed by the mirrored room.


-To see the reflection of the pieces on the ceiling

and experiencing each piece

in three dimensions was really extraordinary.

-Somehow The Met manages to show clothing and show fashion

in a new way each time.

-Just the space is so beautiful

and just really like a treat for your eyes, you know?

I feel like it's a nice,

a little bit of escapism right now.

-Every year, as always, inspiring, innovative.

Like, mind blown every single time.

-We're so excited to see this exhibit

and unfortunately we did not get in.

The guard did not let us in.

-They were sold out. -We tried so hard. We wanna see

all the art and fashion. -We love clothing and fashion.

And it's like the only thing to do

in New York City right now so... [ Laughs ]

-Yeah, there's not really much going on, everything is...

-There is nothing else going on. -Everything is banned,

we can't go out after 10:00.

-At the end of October,

the streets around the museum turn ghoulish.

It's Halloween.

The Met pumpkin, like the Great Hall floral display

that changes every week,

is provided for in perpetuity by a single bequest.

The financial structures,

tax write-offs, and corporate sponsorships

that keep the whole art sector afloat

might be about to change.

It's election time.

President Weiss is a politician with a small "p."

-No one really knows what's going to happen

in one of the greatest elections in American history.

And the consequences of one outcome

or the other are seismic.

And I would maintain that we're not partisan,

but we are political.

Political in the sense that what politics ultimately is about...

is who gets what.

-The Met has money worries, but is wealthy

compared to smaller institutions.

Some industries have received a COVID bailout,

but there has been little for the arts.

On November 3rd, America goes to the polls.

Ken Weine and his wife, Barbara,

join the rest of America by the television.

-There was a line about six people deep

at the liquor store tonight.

-I do think that it's an obsession for people this year.

-I am hopeful that it will be decided by 11:00 tonight.

Jeremy, our son, thinks Friday at the earliest.

Barbara will not engage.

-On the sofa and on the fence,

Ken speaks for a huge and diverse institution.

-The stakes are really high for New York City.

The economic impact on the pandemic,

um, is everywhere.

What that means for the dozens and dozens

of cultural institutions across the city is devastating.

When you read the paper, and the Germans

threw billions of Euros at the arts world,

and so did, you know, parts of the EU,

that's not gonna happen in the United States,

regardless of who wins tonight.

It really exposes the American model of --

of funding of cultural institutions.

We fund our museums, our hospitals,

our universities, our libraries through private philanthropy.

And, okay, what's gonna happen now?

This isn't said out of worry of what will happen to The Met.

The Met will continue to be a strong, important institution.

But what that means for

the dance company in Staten Island,

or the small museum in The Bronx,

that'll, you know, that writ large across the country,

it's really challenging.

I just this afternoon was going back and forth,

"Should I send a note to our department saying

I won't cross any partisan lines here.

Sending strength to each of you and to our city and nation,

as we get ready for whatever this next chapter will bring."

But look, we're New Yorkers,

we've both lived here for 30 years -- ish.

-Yeah. -Right.

-We are in very much of a bubble here

where people pretty much are all on the same team.

-It's not hyperbole when you see the historians

and the commentators on TV saying this is

the most important election in our lifetimes,

if not the, you know, modern history of America.

We've been through intense elections but...

nothing compares to what our city and country

is going through right now.

It's 7:15! We have so long to go!

-Three days later, Ken Weine has no fingernails left to chew on.

-Having waited months and months for the election,

sure enough, here we are,

and the counts are still going on.

The news is kinda coming at us in many different ways.

The virus is raging again.

We had this news alert that Pfizer --

a vaccine -- that's great.

But you gotta think, for this museum

to be working to the capacity it needs to,

how long is that gonna take?

You know, The Met is a place where we plan things,

you know, we have 40 exhibitions;

an exhibition takes three to five years

for its gestation process.

But we don't know what's going to happen...

days ahead of us right now.

What makes this environment so challenging,

it's not necessarily, "Did my candidate win or lose,"

it's that uncertainty, I think, is wearing on people.

And we have just unending uncertainty right now.

-The Met holds art from five millennia --

objects that have seen pestilence and upheaval.

Taking the long view comes naturally to Dan Weiss.


-The Egyptians left so many records.

There is so much papyrus material that survives.

I'm trained as a medievalist and a classicist

and I tend to gravitate towards that material.

There's something really powerful

about the history of the Egyptian civilization,

that it endured for three millennia.

Three millennia!

The American experiment is now at 250 years.

I think at this moment in our history, in 2020,

the American question is open.

With all of the advances

that we have made in technology and science,

what we have done with that knowledge

and that insight is, I think, disappointing.

That, as we stand in this museum,

surrounded by the history of great civilizations

that have come and gone,

ours is more advantaged, more progressive,

more informed than any other in history,

but, thus far, it's an open question

as to how long we'll endure,

and what we'll do with our knowledge.

And at the moment it's hard to say.


-CBS News, and we are coming on the air with breaking news...

-On November 7th comes resolution.

-...projects that Joe Biden has been elected

the 46th president of the United States.

[ Honking, cheering and applause ]

-In New York they're dancing in the streets.

But in many states, citizens feel cheated and aggrieved.

At The Met, Director Max Hollein

is with Jackson Pollock's Autumn Rhythm.

-I just find it absolutely breathtaking.

And I -- I still remember when I was a young kid

and came first to The Met from Vienna, Austria,

it was an even bigger canvas back then

when I was a small child.

The collection is, of course, what excites us

and what excites every curator to be part of this institution.

-In the Musical Instruments Department,

Jayson Dobney shares that excitement,

and a Met Stradivarius, with musician Mariella Haubs.

[ Playing ]

-Already in the last, uh, year or two we've focused on

recontextualizing our collection

and we'll be even more prioritized now

coming out of this crisis.


-The Met is about to turn 151.

For Dan Weiss, it's been a year to remember.

-And my job as a leader, to be surrounded

by people of such great talent and dedication,

who love this place as they do, is inspiring.


-The president and the director

are about to change the museum for good.

-The movement for Black Lives Matter

and all the questions of social justice

and against discrimination and against racism,

has a lot to do, for sure,

with how this institution is being staffed,

and how we act as an institution in the community.

But it also has to do about not only what we show,

but also how we show it and what kind of context we provide.


-I think it is a remarkable moment for us,

this moment of COVID and Black Lives Matter,

and political distress all in this country at the same time.

Whatever comes next, only time will tell,

but I think we all recognize this is a turning point.



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This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.




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