The Metropolitan Museum of Art reopened to the public in late August. Those of us who lined up outside early shared a special sense of relief at its return. As goes the Met, so goes the metropolis. Since its founding in 1870 all the way up to March 2020, the museum had closed for at most only three consecutive days. The covid-19 pandemic kept it shuttered for six months. As spring turned to summer, the effects of this closure became palpable. The lockdown combined with social unrest to rock the foundations of our institutions. The Met’s reopening therefore seemed to signal a restoration. It was a sign of resilience against a backdrop of unease.

Since the reopening, I am not the only one who has been unable to stay away. Time at the museum can do wonders for an otherwise crumbling sense of loss and dislocation. Each visit builds on the next. New discoveries add to familiar friends. I move from one room to the other across the landscape of time and space without any particular path or destination. Greek terracotta leads to the art of the Sahel, which deposits me with French portrait busts. German metal appears next to British glass. Italian armor opens up onto American nude sculpture. Head up and make a right at Robert Joyce’s tall clock and land in the art of Kyoto. “What’s the best way to get back to Egypt?” I ask a guard. “Go through Asia,” she helpfully replies. Somewhere among Archaic art from Cyprus, I realize I have lost my bearings. At such a point, I consider my visit a success. I am exactly where I want to be.

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