New Documentary Series Inside The Met, Premiering Fridays, May 21 and 28 on PBS, Explores the Legacy and Future of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Go behind the scenes as the largest art museum in the Americas plans its 150th anniversary and responds to the coronavirus pandemic and calls for social justice
Five floors high and four city blocks long, spanning 2.3 million square feet and housing more than 1.2 million treasures from the past 5,000 years, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is beloved by New Yorkers and renowned throughout the world. The new three-part documentary series Inside The Met goes behind the scenes of the largest art museum in the Americas, as curators prepare to celebrate the iconic institution’s 150th birthday in 2020 through ambitious landmark exhibitions. Plans for celebrations, however, are halted when the COVID-19 pandemic hits and The Met must close indefinitely. Then, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, the museum is forced to look inward and re-examine its record on diversity, inclusion and how it presents its collection. Featuring interviews with artists, museum curators, conservators, directors and visitors, the series shows the 19th-century institution grappling with how to change and remain relevant in the 21st century. Inside The Met premieres Fridays, May 21 and 28 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/arts and the PBS Video app as part of #PBSForTheArts, the new multiplatform campaign that celebrates the resiliency of the arts in America during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and reopening.
Inside The Met: The Birthday Surprise
Premieres Friday, May 21 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/arts and the PBS Video app
In spring 2019, The Met is in its glory – the coffers are full, visitor numbers are up and staff is preparing to mark the museum’s 150th anniversary the following year with an impressive series of carefully planned exhibitions and events. The first episode of Inside The Met goes behind closed doors to reveal how the museum functions, venturing above and below the public galleries for a close-up look at the work of curators, conservators and executives. Construction of “Making The Met,” an exhibit that explores the evolution of the institution, is well underway, as is the next great show from the Costume Institute, “Camp.” In addition, The Met unveils an incredible series of sculptures by Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu in the museum’s formerly empty façade niches. The future seems limitless for The Met until the coronavirus pandemic shuts down New York City and the world, forcing the museum to close its doors indefinitely for the first time in its history. A skeleton staff battles to protect 1.2 million precious objects while executives face losses approaching $150 million, revealing the new reality inside this storied art institution.
Inside The Met: All Things to All People?
Premieres Friday, May 21 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/arts and the PBS Video app
The Met’s 150th anniversary plans have been derailed by the global pandemic and in summer 2020, the museum begins to confront its past. The executive team examines the institution’s record on inclusion, exclusion and diversity. Questions are raised about some of The Met’s most treasured objects, many obtained unethically and reflecting the tastes of the wealthy 19th-century industrialists and entrepreneurs who founded the museum. Curators work to add important historical context to culturally insensitive pieces that encourage dialogue and understanding through the exploration of art in the museum with differing points of view. A Black family from Connecticut tours the museum and shares their experience viewing The Met’s art and representation, and leading contemporary artists speak about the political and cultural resonance of their work. Interviews include Puerto Rican visual artist Miguel Luciano; and Native American painter Kent Monkman, whose large-scale commissioned paintings featuring his nonbinary alter ego “Miss Chief Eagle Testickle” take a hard look at American colonialism. Taiwanese American performance artist Lee Mingwei collaborates with legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones on a performance of Mingwei’s “Our Labyrinth” at The Met that is designed to be a meditation on this moment of instability and profound change. The pandemic closure will be a footnote in The Met’s history, but re-examining what art is presented and how may change it forever.
Inside The Met: Love and Money
Premieres Friday, May 28 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/arts and the PBS Video app
By fall 2020 The Met’s doors are open in a safe and very limited way. As the glamorous, highly-anticipated Costume Institute show “About Time” comes together, museum staff wonders who will pay for new acquisitions, the crucial but very costly research and conservation work, and infrastructure projects vital to the survival of an antique building. Every department is calling in favors to patrons and supporters, from old-money philanthropists who have contributed millions over generations, to leading collectors realizing the time is right to make their private treasures public. The museum staff also strives to identify and inform the next generation of diverse scholars through its internship program, bringing in new perspectives to keep the art industry moving forward. Critical questions on surviving, thriving and changing remain as The Met continues to reimagine its future.
Inside The Met and the collection of #PBSForTheArts programs will be available for broadcast on PBS and streaming on PBS.org/arts and the PBS Video app. Curated conversation and digital shorts will be available on PBS social media platforms using #PBSForTheArts.
Inside The Met is a production of Oxford Films in association with Apostles for The WNET Group, in association with the BBC. Ian Denyer is series producer, writer and director. Crystal-Claire Simmonds is series narrator. For Oxford Films: Nicolas Kent is Executive Producer. For The WNET Group: Lesley Norman is Executive Producer and Stephen Segaller is Executive-in-Charge.
Original production funding for Inside The Met is provided by Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Jaharis Family Foundation, Seton Melvin Charitable Trust, Elaine and W. Weldon Wilson, Anderson Family Fund, The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, The Carson Family Charitable Trust, Mary and James G. Wallach Foundation, and Mark Hornstein and Barry Neustein. Production Support provided by DRIVE.
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