Every couple of years, an exhibit comes to a New York museum that is such a must-see, you know people will be talking about it for years to come. “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer”, currently on view at the Met for four more days, is one of those exhibits. I knew I would regret it if I missed it so I went one Wednesday on my lunch break. With only 40 minutes, I frantically glanced at each work like a teenager scrolling their Instagram feed. I really didn’t get much out of it, except the ability to say forever more,
“Oh, that historic Michelangelo exhibit the Met had in 2018? Yes, yes, of course I saw it.”
Lame, I know.
I hoped I would have time to go back an really look at the art…
When I visited the museum for the Museum Hack Harry Potter tour, I thought I had my chance. It was a Saturday afternoon and so crowded – of course everyone in NYC wants to see the must-see of the season! But my boyfriend wasn’t feeling great the whole Harry Potter tour…so I conceded to leaving the Met as soon as it ended.
I mean, I’d already seen it. Kinda. Not really.
Then this week I found myself with a free morning. I arrived at the Met at 9:40AM and sat outside for 20 minutes waiting for the museum to open. This is something I’ve never done before…it was touristy, but also rather amazing to be one of the first people inside this epically large museum!
I headed straight Michelangelo. I was not alone. It was hard to believe how full the galleries were just 10 minutes after the museum opened!
Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer is primarily dedicated to sketches by the artist. Not many survive and those that do are incredibly fragile. Flimsy, 500 year old pieces of paper with sketches by arguably the world’s GOAT artist.
It was amazing to see the process behind a true genius. How he evolved from the beginning of his career to incredible celebrity by the end. I’m no painter nor sculptor, but I feel like I learned some life lessons taking my time walking through the full exhibit.
I wasn’t expecting to be inspired on a personal level
Artists in the Renaissance learned their craft exclusively by copying the work of their masters. I always try so, so hard to be original. I avoid writing blog posts that other people have. I dismiss any idea of writing a NYC guide book because there are already so many out there. Why write a novel or a play unless it’s fantastically new and different? I completely sabotage myself with this kind of thinking.
Seeing Michelangelo’s early work was profound for me in an unexpected way. This celebrated genius began by working off the work of others! But copying designs and slowly but surely making them his own! If it’s good enough for the greatest artist of all time, I should give it a try! Stop reaching for a concept of “original” that doesn’t really mean very much…
Another personal struggle? Perfectionism. Michelangelo was such a perfectionist that he destroyed a huge amount of his own work because he never wanted anyone to know just how much he poured into each master piece. Don’t let anyone see the rough drafts, he wanted everyone to think that his genius came easy. With the sketches in this exhibit, we got a peek at how much time and effort went into every splash of paint and chip of marble. How many figure sketches and hours went into just one TOE on a background figure on the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo completely failed to destroy his legacy as someone who put in the work. The 10,000 hours they say you need to become an expert was barely the beginning for this divine draftsman and designer.
The things artists could achieve before cell phones and day jobs… can we ever hope for art like this again? That truly remembers the meaning of “awe” in “awesome”? I’m skeptical but hopeful. And ready to book a trip to Rome ASAP.
The crowds are going to be madness the last 4 days of this exhibit. It’s worth the swarm of people, go if you can! Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer closes February 12th.
Have you been to the Sistine Chapel? Please tell me about the experience! Ever had epiphanies while at a museum? What art inspires you? Who’s your favorite Ninja Turtle? TMNT Michelangelo actually visited this exhibit! Click to see I’m not kidding!