‘Made in U.S.A.’ Shines After Makeover (Met Exhibit/NYC)

When the Metropolitan Museum set up its first sculpture department in 1886, it threw in anything and everything that wasn’t framed, stitched or printed: “all the sculptures, pottery, porcelain, glassware, jewelry, engraved gems, bronzes, inscriptions, and other such objects of art, commonly termed Bric-a-Brac.”

No doubt to some eyes the museum’s newly reopened American galleries look like Bric-a-Brac City. Twenty generously appointed period rooms, 12 of them seriously spiffed up, along with the glass-enclosed Charles Engelhard Court flooded with Central Park light, hold the full range of items specified in that early Met inventory and much, much more.

And all look good, especially the court. When it made its debut in 1980, it had a sunken floor and large beds of plantings. The floor has now been raised and paved with light-colored stone and the plantings reduced to clear a wide-open space. What was once a kind of oversize conversation pit with a cafe to the side is now a full-fledged sculpture garden, with a lot more sculpture and a lot less garden. (The cafe is still there.)

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