We all love the Met for their fabulous Costume Institute, and for the other costume-related masterpieces in the Museum, but there is another artwork in the museum that I love.
As a visitor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art one of the things that intrigued and amazed me was the gorgeous, enormous flower arrangements in the Great Hall. They were so big! And spectacular!
I noticed them every time I was lucky enough to visit the museum, and later, when I interned at the Met, I got to find out about the flower arrangements, and watch their creation.
The flower arrangements happen thanks to a generous bequest to the museum that pays for their creation. The same florist was responsible for them for decades, and when he finally retired, his son continued the family business, and the link to the Met.
The flowers are installed weekly on Monday mornings, the day the museum is closed to the public. The florist and a helper arrive first thing in the morning, and set to work creating their masterpieces around the hall.
The first arrangement to be done is the central vase that sits in the middle of the circular information desk. The vase is actually two vases – a small upper vase, and a large lower vase, which helps to create the full shape of the flower arrangement.
If I recall correctly, the entire vase arrangement actually spins, to better allow the florist to create a perfect arrangement in the round, without constantly moving his ladders.
The arrangement is built up in layers of different flowers and leaves.
The flowers and foliage are carefully chosen to remain fresh and lush throughout the week in the busy, crowded Great Hall.
In the summertime the arrangements are predominantly based on tropical flowers, which can withstand the extreme heat and humidity of a New York summer. All summer long I watched the florist create arrangements of heliconias and parrot flowers, monstera leaves and palm fronds.
In the winter, flowers that prefer cooler temperatures are used.
One flower is never included the flower arrangements at the Met. Lilies, despite their large size, relative robustness, and the showy splash of colour they provide, are banned. Their strong fragrance irritates many allergy sufferers, and on one particularly hot summer day people in the hall, and especially the staff working under the flowers around the information desk, complained of the scent of the lilies. Then people started fainting. Lilies have not been used since.
My memories are almost 7 years old, and they are based on casual conversations with the florist, but I thought you might still enjoy seeing the images I took, and getting a little glimpse into one of America’s greatest museums. I just think the flowers add so much to the museum, and to the atmosphere of the Great Hall. What a wonderful thing that bequest is, to bring so much life and joy to the visitors, and to add another layer to the Met’s story.