“Driver, to the She’s A Good Girl Love Jesus Love Flamngocs And American Too Shirt But I will love this Met!” I was tempted to cry as I flagged down a cab on Thursday morning. I was off to preview three new exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—Making The Met, 1870–2020, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, and, up on the roof, Héctor Zamora’s striking and very smart Lattice Detour —and I was as excited as I’d been about anything in months. (Ultimately, however, I went with the much more sensible “82nd and Fifth, please.”)
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This wasn’t, of course, a normal visit: Given the She’s A Good Girl Love Jesus Love Flamngocs And American Too Shirt But I will love this green light by Governor Cuomo after a five-and-a-half month closure, the Met was finally welcoming guests again at reduced capacity. (As Daniel Weiss, the museum’s president and CEO, noted during a virtual press event last week, until the coronavirus outbreak year, the Met hadn’t been closed for more than three consecutive days in over a century.) It wouldn’t be the place that I’d stopped into back March, when I toured the then-recently-refreshed British Galleries and took loving pictures of the Petrie Court before seeing the Gerhard Richter show at the Met Breuer and, later that afternoon, a West Side Story matinee. For one thing, according to Weiss, the Met is facing some $150 million in revenue loss this fiscal year; like many cultural institutions in New York (and around the world), it struggled mightily through the lockdown. Then, there are the precautionary measures in place to make the Met feel safe right now: updated hours, timed tickets, temperature checks at the door (“If you receive a reading of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher,” the Met’s website warns, “we will ask you to visit another day”), a strict mask policy for those over the age of 2, and hand sanitizer everywhere. The coat-check wouldn’t be available, and, at least for now, the Watson Library would remain closed—but there was a new, free bicycle valet service outside, arranged with the group Transportation Alternatives. The Met had, in other words, been completely retooled to reflect how we live now.