Preview: The Met’s eye-opening new galleries for British art and design

Editorial Staff Art

Following a $22 million renovation and re-installation some seven years in the planning and execution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s galleries devoted to British art and design reopen to the public on March 2nd. The nearly seven hundred objects and artworks on view—in ten room encompassing some 11,000 square feet—offer a layered and nuanced view of British history through the prism of its furniture, decorative arts, and architecture. There are many things of beauty and splendor on display in these galleries, yet curators have not flinched from the exploitative and often cruel nature of the empire that fostered their creation.

Take a quick stroll through the galleries: 

The entrance to the Met’s new British galleries opens onto a space devoted to arts of the sixteenth century. Photo by Richard Lee. All photos are courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Two highlights of that gallery are carved oak paneling from Norfolk and a c. 1510 painted terracotta bust, thought to represent Henry VIII’s foe Bishop John Fisher, by Florentine sculptor Pietro Torrigiano (1472-1528). Lee photo.
A c. 1677 staircase from the now-demolished mansion Cassiobury House in Hertfordshire commands the seventeenth-century gallery. Photo by Joseph Coscia.
That space also features a c. 1698 bed made for Hampton Court Castle in Herefordshire. Coscia photo.
The gallery devoted to the eighteenth century features a marvelous vitrine in which objects made of silver, glass, porcelain and other materials seem to float in air. Lee photo.
Pre-Raphaelite art, arts and crafts furniture, and majolica ceramics share space in the nineteenth-century gallery. Coscia photo.
The tapestry room from the mid-eighteenth-century Palladian mansion Croome Court is one the period rooms in the British galleries. Coscia photo.
Another is the rococo dining room from Kirtlington Park in Oxfordshire, with plasterwork that dates to the 1740s. Lee photo.
A third is the neoclassical dining room from Landsdowne House in London, designed c. 1766 by Robert Adam. Coscia photo.
A gallery titled “Tea, Trade, and Empire” contains a display of some 100 elegant and amusing teapots. Yet the space also contains objects that speak of the human costs of commodities such as tea, sugar, and cocoa. Coscia photo.