Art, Aesthetics, and Exploration at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

An examination of one of the world’s great museums, right here in New York City.

Admissions Tickets “As one of the largest museums in the world, there is enough art [here] to satisfy and teach everyone something they didn’t know before,” said Sazeda Kabir ’22, regarding The Met.

Art is perhaps one of the most telling and encapsulating screenshots of time. It remains both a unifying and divisive factor in our progression through the modern day and it imparts unto us what life was like in a time we haven’t experienced. It has proven to be one of the most nuanced forms of communication throughout time, leaving viewers to question the impact of their actions — lest their own works of art be immortalized just the same. 

“Many ancient civilizations used art to communicate ideas that are reinforced and shared through the pieces that we see. Statues have immortalized figures and events in history to the point where we can gain a larger understanding of the world in which we live,” said Sazeda Kabir ’22.

In the words of the philosopher David Hume, “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.” Limiting yourself to the idea that there’s just one right answer or one right way of interpreting a work of art is what holds far too many back from appreciating true beauty. The shackles of “rightness” chains people to a reflection of themselves, exposing the egotistical nature of a singular truth, and denies the presence of truth within multiple interpretations of the same body of work. 


Since its very creation on April 13th, 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has adopted the mission of making art more accessible to the American public. In fact, its charter specifically states that its mission is “to be located in the City of New York, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said city a Museum and library of art, of encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, of furnishing popular instruction.”

It’s no secret that New York City is a cultural hub of art and is filled with museums that showcase it all, but what separates The Met from others is its belief in and commitment to the idea that art doesn’t belong to any one person but rather to the public. 

My friend Arifa Tasmiya ’22 and I were lucky enough to explore The Met recently. Naturally, there was a crowd surrounding the steps of this magnificent building, and I worried that the price to enter would be far more than I had on hand, falsely presuming this to be one of the most exclusionary spaces in the city. 

I walked past security, with my vaccination status and school ID in hand, towards the ticket seller. To my surprise, she informed me that admission is “anything to nothing.” In fact, the museum relies on a “pay-as-you-wish” system for residents of New York City, and students in the tri-state area. It is the only major museum in the world to do this, and it has relied on funding from visitors for over fifty years.

Of course, there are other museums that share the same mission statement, but The Met should remain an inspiration to them, opening its doors to more than six million individuals annually. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is just as committed to inclusivity and the exploration of the fine arts as The Met and also features pay-what-you-wish admission, but only on select Saturdays between 4 and 6 p.m. The Whitney Museum of American Art is another such example that also features this kind of admission, but it is limited to Fridays between 7 and 10 p.m. 

So, with a penny in my pocket, I was able to see some of the world’s most astonishing works of art. What I thought would be exclusionary had suddenly become within reach, and from then on, I began to take note of how accessible the museum was trying to make their art on view. 

I even started to question the importance of art accessibility, even though I had never given it much thought before. I presumed true art to be anything that the average person could transcribe from their mind onto paper, but I failed to take into account how art and artists alike require inspiration and acceptance. 

Arifa noted that “Art accessibility widens our horizons by allowing us to experience art from different cultures and periods of time to gain a larger understanding of the world we live in. It can be an escape for people or a passion that they’re trying to expand. Viewing pieces created by others can help aspiring artists find different styles that could be incorporated into their own pieces of work.” 


The Met is home to thousands of works of art spanning five thousand years of history with exhibitions featuring cultures from all around the world. I think it’s quite amazing to see so many cultures and so much of history under one roof in a two-million-square-foot building. Each of these cultures presents a unique set of features that conveys its past and how people felt during its creation.

Arifa went on to add that, “it’s really intriguing to compare cultures and the differences and similarities between them. I think The Met is a really good place to do this because they have a wide variety of collections. Not only do they have paintings and sculptures, but there are many historical exhibits that display furniture, pottery, etc. and from those pieces, you can really start to understand how different life was in the past.”

This piece features quite a few recommendations of exhibits to view from the museum, submitted by your Bronx Science peers. 


There has been quite a lot of controversy surrounding the emergence of cultural art in white spaces. For centuries, civilizations all around the world have been stripped of the cultural markers that define them and their passage through history; these symbolic monuments of their cultural history have been written off, sold, and glamorized by European society, which continues to treat them as more of a spectacle to critique rather than art to be appreciated. 

Art cannot be claimed and shown off in a museum that disregards the history behind it, and the reality is that much of the art in museums like The Met is stolen despite the efforts to scrub that little nugget of information from history. Looters, among those who have no business buying and selling the cornerstone of cultural art, have a history of making a pretty penny off the accessibility of art that was not created for them. 

African, Mesoamerican, East Asian, and South Asian art have all been displaced at the hands of colonization, and it’s high time for reparations. Imperialism has stripped the world of its crown jewels — literally — and the documentation of its history through time, all so that people can peer in a museum and wonder why one piece of art can matter so much. 

In fact, the Crown of  Our Lady of the Assumption of Popayán, also known as the Crown of the Andes, is an example of this. Finished in 1599 by the indigenous people of Colombia, this crown was made to top a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral of Popayán. By 1650, the crown had been stolen by British marauders but was returned to its ancestral home by 1812 at the hands of Simon Bolivar. It had been in the possession of private collectors for years until December of 2015 when the crown was acquired for The Met with a hefty price tag of nearly three million dollars. Colombia has expressed the desire to reclaim its crown and history, but so far has not been successful. 


“I think art can often be exclusionary, but the museum does a good job addressing this,” said Siya Gupta ’23, as she described how the walls were laminated by information about POC movements and art. She went on to note that “in a diverse city like New York, art allows people to express themselves, understand others, and share commonalities.”

Tasmiya agreed, adding that “people of color often don’t have access to good art programs, which limits their opportunities.” The museum has recognized this and is trying to uphold its mission of combining scholarship with accessibility. 

The Met has developed internship programs, volunteer opportunities, and jobs that advocate for inclusivity and diversity within art, especially within institutions as notable as itself. This promotes the inclusion of people of color in typically white-dominated spaces who have been disproportionately affected by white exclusivity, and it offers them a chance to develop an interest in the fine arts. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses an astoundingly beautiful collection of both art and history that I can only count myself lucky to have seen. I hope this piece imparts to my peers that art is far more than just something to be adored and is in fact something that can offer them careers and a lifetime of fulfillment. 

Quite a few of my fellow students have denounced a career in the fine and liberal arts as something that they could never get into, or something that could never offer them as much success as a career in math or science. An escape from the arts is what prevents a society from grounding itself and looking within. I hope that the opportunity to visit this museum for as little as one penny inspires more to see beyond just paint on a canvas, but more importantly, inwards. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses an astoundingly beautiful collection of both art and history that I can only count myself lucky to have seen.