15 November 2017




As of Monday, November 13, 2017, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has produced a new exhibit for public consumption, Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer. You have to make your way past some attention-grabbing art collections, the raw sculptures of Rodin and the image conversations taking place in the Talking Pictures Exhibit. The experience is, by necessity, a practice in patience as you wait for other patrons to take their pictures and move along so that you can take your own pictures. I know I probably was the source of multiple eye rolls.

Photo courtesy of Katlyn Wooder.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) was a high renaissance artist who excelled in sculpting, painting, poetry and architecture design. His vision enabled him to flourish in his field. He is known for his sculpture David, found in the Louvre, and his paintings that decorated the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, found in the Vatican. He was known as the greatest artist of his time, and remains one of the most recognized figures in western art.

Walking through an exhibit that is fundamentally based on a large collection of centuries-old drawings is an experience in behind-the-scenes decision making process. From the thematic and chronological order of the exhibit, to the props added to place the drawings in context, to the underlining story of a great, popular artist and a multitude of his relationships with other artists (such as his mentor Domenico Ghirlandaio); each decision is well calculated to build on the one before it to inform the visitor of the multidimensional figure of Michelangelo. Who his teacher was, who he influenced, and the legacy in architecture and marble that he left behind, as seen through his drawings. 

Photo courtesy of Katlyn Wooder.

One of the highlights of the exhibit was the 1/4 model of the Sistine Chapel that hung illuminated above Michelangelo’s original studies. Situated halfway through the exhibit below the ceiling there are torsos twisting, legs extending, and faces drawn in red chalk. It is a moment where the exhibit showcases the celebration of the work that went into Michelangelo's final pieces, while treating each draft, letter, poetry, drawing as an individual piece of art.

The large space of the exhibit (with its towering grey walls, low lighting and white wall text) helps unify a collection that comes from multiple sources. Each 2D artwork is held within a different frame. Some are modern and sleek, and others ornate and decorative. The long procession of works had the potential to become disparate from each other, even though most were done by the artist's own hand. The uniformity of the mounting helped to create a story between them, one that I found easy to follow.

Photos courtesy of Katlyn Wooder.

One of my favorite details of the exhibit was that when the MET bolted artwork or frames down they painted the securing material to make it aesthetically noninvasive. It managed to erase the security practices from jostling the viewer experience.

 Photo courtesy of Katlyn Wooder,

Michelangelo is not only explored through his artwork, but also through his work in architecture, as well as the unusual and unexpected pieces, such as a wooden model of the dome of Fabbrica di San Pietro in the Vatican City. It is situated well within the architectural plans that demonstrate Michelangelo’s legacy, and his identity beyond a figure artist.

The exhibit was an experience. It was a unique perspective on the Michelangelo's work. It didn't concentrate on his finished product. Instead, it focused on the raw, imperfect work that demonstrates process and techniques. The exhibit didn't concentrate on the genius of Michelangelo, but on the man who toiled to create masterpieces.

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