Anniversary: The Met is 140 years old!

TUESDAY, April 13: It’s the 140th anniversary of the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. On April 13, 1870, the “Met” was founded. Today, the Met sits on the eastern edge of Central Park and boasts a permanent collection of more than 2 million pieces of art. The works range from ancient Egyptian pieces to modern American works to Islamic, Oceanic, Byzantine art and more. (Get the Met’s history and more at Wikipedia.) The Met also maintains musical instruments, costumes and antique weapons—from across the globe.

Like most art musuems, the Met displays an array of religious themes. The Met’s impressive collection includes pieces concerning Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Hinduism, Indigenous groups, Islam, Jainism, Judaism and Shintoism! Earlier this year, however, the Met made headlines because of a controversy surrounding a few pieces in its Islamic collection: Muslims objected to images of the Prophet Muhammad, pointing out that their faith prohibits images of Muhammad. In response, the museum removed those images and may not put them back in place when a renovated exhibition area opens in 2011. (The New York Post published an article.) In some past eras of Islamic history, artists visually represented Muhammad in illustrated manuscripts, for example. But, Met officials were concerned about controversies in other parts of the world over images of Muhammad and chose to avoid potential friction.

Religious themes are part of the broad tradition of Western art, as well. Two modern artists have gained popularity for their unique creative approaches. New Zealand painter Colin McCahon has brought biblical scenes into the 20th and 21st centuries by painting them in current New Zealand landscapes. (Check out the official Colin McCahon image library.) McCahon also was known for the use of words and text in his works. (This YouTube video offers explanations and up-close views of one of McCahon’s works.) WiIliam Congdon, an American painter who died in 1998 (his obituary was in the New York Times), fused abstraction and representation in his religious-themed pieces.

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, you can click the “Our Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)

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