Amazing: it’s only 6 months since we decided to start New York gay history tours, and it’s already happening. Last Friday evening, I gave our first gay history tour on US soil: a preview of our LGBT tour of the Metropolitan Museum, given for a gay college alumni group.
Learn More: Gay City Breaks
And it went well! We tried to limit it to 18 participants, like our regular tours, but 32 people signed up, so we had to give the tour twice, and they have posted some very nice comments on the web—one of which is now at the top of our NY page.
I have become more and more interested in the Metropolitan Museum tour. Of course, I am an art historian, so that makes sense—and I also particularly like giving tours of the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Louvre, and the Vatican. The Met is in some ways the most interesting, however, because its collections are so all-encompassing: more than any other museum, it allows you to trace a theme throughout human history.
That said, though, the tour also has some of the charm of a Vatican tour: like the Vatican, if the Met has a great collection of homo-erotica, this is certainly not intentional. The more I learn about its history, the more I see that until recently, the Met was as stuffy an institution as it could possibly be: it only has homoerotic pieces, because they were so important that they couldn’t be avoided, or because the donors and/or trustees didn’t notice. People talk about resisting or subverting a cultural narrative. Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing at the Met: uncovering a story that isn’t meant to be there, that has asserted itself despite every effort at repression.
Whatever the museum’s intentions, the Met has a great collection of homoerotic pieces, though. In fact, it has been difficult to cut the tour down to a feasible 2 hour walk. But I think we have. We look at about 20 pieces now, in 6 of the museum’s departments. We go from the Greek and Roman galleries, through the Oceania collection and the European sculpture collection, upstairs to European paintings, where we look at a few pieces in each of the two major subsections, Old Masters and 19th century; then finally we come back down to the modern collection. In fact, while we uncover the hidden gay story in the museum, we also get a pretty good orientation.
We start with the Met’s Greek kouros, one of the earliest nude males, and we end with a Paul Cadmus painting of a circus acrobat—a 20th century New York version of an ancient homoerotic male nude (and the only piece in the tour by an artist who is mentioned on our other gay history tours of New York). A lot of our time is spent on the male nude, but we also see portraits of some famous gay people and several Lesbian scenes. In short, it’s a full two hours! So….come try our LGBT tour of the Metropolitan Museum! Judging from people’s comments so far, I don’t think you’ll regret it.