`Making the Mummies Dance' Excerpts
MY goal was to make the Met a people's cultural paradise, full of fun and celebration, an open-book library of the visual arts of the highest possible excitement and controversy, an institution that would stand for the best of popular instruction. I also wanted the place to be efficient, crisp, decisive, and, above all, intellectually honest, telling the truth about the works of art in the collections and continually striving to show the public levels and gradations of quality - the good, the better, theSkip to next paragraph
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best. I wanted also to make the Met into a vast stage where all the art of the world could parade, without snobbishness. My kicks? They came from the challenges, the action. I had stopped needing to succeed or to win a work of art or to land a collection or an exhibition. The contest was what drove me. I wasn't bothered by failure, and I didn't mind the criticism of the art press. In fact, what bothered me more was the grinding petty bureaucracy of the Met.
I have admired thousands of works, loved a hundred or so. Only one was an object of total adoration - a Greek vase dating to around 510 B.C.
The vase, officially called a calyx krater, was designed by Euxitheos, the potter, and decorated by Euphronios, the painter. Though it is only eighteen inches tall and twenty-one in diameter, it is heavy .... The Euphronios krater is everything I revere in a work of art. It is flawless in technique, is a grand work of architecture, has several levels of heroic subject matter, and keeps on revealing something new at every glance. To love it, you only have to look once. To adore it, you must read Homer and
know that the drawing is perhaps the summit of fine art. Truly, the calyx krater is one of those rare pieces that is legitimately the perfect object of adoration for both the neophyte and the art snob.