Archival image of the Oceanic art gallery in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982. The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Met’s galleries devoted to the art of sub-Saharan Africa, the ancient Americas, and Oceania were inaugurated in 1982. At the time, their opening marked a radical expansion of the cultural achievements recognized by the Museum. Since then, we have witnessed a surge in transformative and expanded art historical studies on the vast areas of world art these galleries embrace. Those advances of the last thirty-eight years have in turn sparked a reenvisioning of this global crossroads within the Museum.
In Akan culture the term Sankofa refers to a quest for knowledge, which is visualized as a bird with feet planted forward and head turned backward. Likewise, this project involves a critical examination of the past as a guide for renewal. Developed over the last four years with wHY Architects, the initiative will begin to manifest in January 2021 with the deinstallation of the existing Oceanic art galleries.
By 2024, visitors will encounter a complete conceptual and physical overhaul of the forty-thousand-square-foot Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. The glass wall abutting Central Park will be replaced to allow greater illumination and increased space will be allotted to the presentation of art.
Reframing Three Art Histories
Most importantly, the three major world traditions will stand as independent entities in a wing that functions as a dynamic nexus in dialogue with neighboring spaces. The redefinition of the galleries will underscore distinct architectural vernaculars relevant to the three collection areas. The planned installations will elucidate artworks’ aesthetic qualities, tether them to historical and cultural movements, highlight individual authors and the provenance of specific artifacts, introduce commentary by leading public intellectuals in diverse fields, and provide greater clarity and accessibility to visitors. This project is informed by extensive archival and field research as well as international dialogue, including a series of scholarly workshops.
--The Metroplitcan Museum of Art