Met is hosting an employee art exhibition open to the public for the first time

The art exhibition of the employees during the installation (all photos by Elaine Velie / Hyperallergic, unless otherwise stated)

Every second year since 1935, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York presents an art exhibition of its employees. This has always been a relatively private affair, and the cases have only been seen in the eyes of employees – so far. This year, the favorite art exhibition of the museum staff returns and is open to the public for the first time.

Of Met’s staff of 1,700, more than 450 employees contributed works to the show, which opens today, June 6 and will run through June 19. Artwork: Artists working at The MetThe presentation takes place in an exhibition space next to the hall of the ancient Greek sculpture of the museum and includes works by workers from various departments, from security guards and technicians to librarians, registrars and volunteers.

Text on the wall at the entrance of Artwork: Artists working at The Met

Daniel Kershaw, the museum’s exhibition design manager, has been leading the show’s curatorial process for more than 20 years. Every piece of art presented is traditionally included in the show and staff members like it Kershaw works after hours to install the exhibition on time.

As the works come along, Kershaw looks for common threads to tie the diverse and eclectic pieces together. “It’s horrible, and then as it goes, it starts to make sense – maybe just for me,” Kershaw told Hyperallergic. “I’m sure a lot of artists think, ‘Are you kidding, you put my masterpiece next to this awful thing?’

Kershaw oversees the show thematically, with one wall showing landscapes.

The curation of the exhibition thematically allows Kershaw to perceive how the areas of interest of the artists change from year to year.

“I think you see a pulse of what artists are looking for right now, in a way I don’t usually see in anything else,” Kershaw said. Compared to previous years, for example, he has seen less nudity in this year’s artwork. “What happened? There’s almost no nudity, sex has dropped a lot this year,” Kershaw said.

Kershaw explained that some of the artists in the exhibition are professionals who work at Met to pay their bills. Others are amateurs creating art in their spare time.

Rachel High, Grotesque Vessels (2021, 2022)

For Rachel High, manager of editorial marketing and rights, who has been with Met for eight years, this is her second time participating in an art show for employees. This year, High provided two small sculptural vessels for the exhibition. She covered the tin and glass jar with clay and painted them to look like monsters, applying resin to her eyes to create depth. Both parts are functional and in addition to donating her artwork to friends, she uses the objects she creates in her daily life.

Hai said seeing the museum’s art exhibitions has helped change the way she thinks about her own work. “Although I think of it as a craft, it’s still a technical art,” she told Hyperallergic.

Seeing Met’s decorative arts exhibitions, Hai thinks differently about his own work.
Jerry Payne, “Juke Joint” (2022)

Jerry Payne, who works in the education department, provided a photo titled “Juke Joint”, which he took this year in the courtyard of one of his favorite neighborhood bars. The photo is from his series Finding herewhich Payne launched in 2016 after moving to Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood.

“It’s about being able to capture real moments of real black people at rest, in your life,” Payne told Hyperallergic. “Especially since I live in Brooklyn, but I’m not from Brooklyn, many of my questions behind my work – which is primarily about the collective memory of blacks – are related to the question, ‘What is my responsibility?’ How to indulge in space, how to record these moments?

Rebecca Sheer, who sent a photo she took during a trip to Cuba, has been taking photos for about 15 years. She also works with photographic and film crews in her work as a senior production manager at the museum.

Textile art in the show
In the Center, Rebecca Shear, Foreign Affairs (2017)

In an interview with Hyperallergic, Schear described feeling overwhelmed as she walked around the exhibition and saw the names of her colleagues on wall labels next to stunning works of art.

“You just don’t even realize, I work with him all the time,” she said, pointing to a photo hanging near her. “I didn’t even know it was something he could do.”

Michael Gallagher, chairman of the painting conservation department, contributed to the exhibition with one of his own oil paintings on canvas. He told Hyperallergic that being an artist highlighted his work as a conservator. Thanks to his personal studio practice, he can better understand artists’ instincts and knows how not to complicate someone else’s work – applying two-layer paint colors can have a deeper meaning, he says, or “maybe the artist just did not like the first shade of green. “

Michael Gallagher, “Thompson Pond, Partially Frozen, Pine Plains, 1:45 p.m., February 6, 2021” (2021) (courtesy of Michael Gallagher)

Being a quaestor has also influenced Gallagher’s behavior as an artist. He told a story of painting in open airas he usually does when his canvas falls face down in the ground. Gallagher said he picked it up immediately and began removing the dirt, as a conservator would.

But for years Gallagher kept his painting to himself.

“The reason you keep this confidential is because it’s so important to you,” Gallagher said. “It’s because you feel very vulnerable, and also when you work for one of the greatest art institutions in the world and do some of the greatest paintings, it just seems extremely presumptuous to be like, ‘Oh, me too I paint. ””

“There are some great artists walking around the subways,” Gallagher added.

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