On the same day that I saw the Year of the Rooster exhibit at the Met, I also decided to take a look at the Arms & Armor of the Islamic World exhibit. Most of my undergrad studies focused on Middle Eastern history so it’s an area I’m generally interested in. Plus, I grew up reading sword and sorcery fantasy novels like the Dragonlance series of books, the Lord of the Rings, and Song of Ice and Fire, among others. The Wheel of Time series is also pretty good. Anyway, seeing arms and armor in person isn’t as dramatic as those stories, or watching Game of Thrones, but it’s pretty cool anyway. The Arms & Armor hall in the Met is one of my favorite exhibits. I was hoping the Arms & Armor of the Islamic World exhibit would be just as impressive.
It really wasn’t though.
The exhibit consisted of a few items packed into one small room, along with a sign saying, “Oh by the way, there’s some other stuff scattered around the rest of the museum that generally falls into this category but we couldn’t be assed to actually put it all together into a coherent display for you, but wanted to get more people into the museum and get more money so we pretended to set up a full exhibit and put it on our website and brochures.” Or something along those lines.
Disappointment in the size and scattered nature of the special exhibit aside, I took great pleasure in examining what was actually there and in looking at the regular items on display.
Next time I head to the Met, I think I’ll go take another look at the Islamic Lands wing. I haven’t been there since shortly after I opened, in 2012 I think it was.
The Cloisters is the medieval art branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan. The building that houses the galleries is an amazing conglomeration of multiple monasteries from Europe that were crated up, shipped here to New York, and then reconstructed on site using a mix of original and modern materials. The attempt was well done and walking through the Cloisters feels like walking through an old monastery. There’s a main chapel, a smaller chapel, gardens and exhibit halls. The gardens are full of growing herbs and plants that were used during the medieval period, from nightshade to hops.
Going to the Cloisters is a pretty short trip. You can easily see everything in a day, and that’s if you take your time walking around and reading all of the inscriptions. The Met advertises that you can pay at either the main branch or the Cloisters and then access both branches in the same day, but I think that’s a bit of stretch, unless you do it on a Friday or Saturday, when the main building doesn’t close until 9 PM. Also, keep in mind that the prices listed at the entrance are “suggested” prices, meaning that’s what they recommend. You don’t have to pay that much to get in, so if you’re a little tight for cash, you can give them a dollar or two and they’ll still let you in.
Another great thing about the Cloisters is the park it’s located in. Fort Tryon park has some great views. Unlike most parts of Central Park, Fort Tryon Park is extremely hilly, with lots of paths, stairs, and great places for photo opportunities. When my wife and I went to the Cloisters, we rode the bus in from the train station, but on the way out we walked through the park. We’re looking forward to going back to the Cloisters in the near future, but we’re looking forward to exploring the park just as much.