The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just mounted two gigantic paintings in the Great Hall. Part an attempt to signal diversity, part a marketing ploy and part interesting works of art, the pictures are by Kent Monkman, a Cree from Canada with the help of those in his “workshop.”
The opening event took place in the Met’s Grace Rainey Rogers auditorium, packed to the gunnels. The audience (a mix of VIPs in elegant outfits and regular folks in warm clothes) listened to remarks by Max Hollein, the Met’s Director; Phyllis Yaffe, the outgoing Consul General of Canada in New York, and curator Randall Griffey. Slides of Monkton’s two pictures were on the screen.
The evening began with five Indigenous People presenting a musical tribute to honor a New York friend who had died. We were asked to stand and think warmly about those we knew who had passed on. When I thought of my adored late husband I got a strong sense of him rolling his eyes at the music which was heavy on drum bashing and repeated wailing.
Afterwards came Monkman in the guise of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle (whose name, we are told, plays on “mischief” and “egotistical.”) He/ she was clad in a teepee-shaped dark pink garment with the tent open at knee-level to reveal legs ending in very high heels. She/he also wore diamond bracelets over dark pink gloves, long dark hair, very long eyelashes and an upward-pointing feather headdress and read a sort of invocation-cum-admonition full of double-entendres. In the pictures, Welcoming the Newcomers and Resurgence of the People, Miss Chief is the central figure in both, naked except for some drapery and Christian Laboutin high heels. The paintings are laden with very identifiable references to European and North American paintings and sculptures in the Met’s collections. Here is a link to the review by Holland Carter in the 12/20/ 19 New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/19/arts/design/kent-monkman-metropolitan-museum.html Even more fun, this link takes you to a talk by Kent Monkman partly as Miss Chief: https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2019/great-hall-commission-kent-monkman?utm_source=qr&utm_campaign=gallery&fbclid=IwAR17RRBLiVBJ9hwHrC4FWBDpLPwPZiqSITpx2d82XAZH0qlPZT5yX9eRSeY#content
From my POV, the whole has a little bit of the Emperor’s New Clothes mixed in. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea and well-executed. I’d love to take a tour beginning and ending with Monkton’s pictures in the Great Hall that includes viewing the works referenced which I bet the Met has planned.
Here is a recipe for the drink should you be so inclined:
Winter Aperol Spritz
3 ounces Aperol
3 ounces prosecco
1 ounce cranberry juice
2 ounces club soda
1 orange rind twist
1 sprig of rosemary
Combine the aperol, prosecco and cranberry in a glass with ice. Add the orange twist and rosemary sprig. Salute Canada, the Met, indigenous peoples or whatever takes your fancy. Do not play the spirit music. Cheers!