I’m a New Yorker. Brooklyn born and raised. So, when I was offered a two hour tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Saturday afternoon, I winced. A tour? I’m not a tourist. I’m from here! BUT, I love art. Also, this tour seemed special. Like a hot slice of pizza from Totono’s special. I gave in. Offered by a company called Museum Hack who offer tours in museums across the country, I chose to do the tour entitled: “Badass Bitches”. On the website it is described as a tour that may “raise the percentage of female artists” at the Met. I had to see this for myself.
My group met Lindsay, our tour guide, at the Colossal Statue of a Pharaoh in the front hall of the museum. Everyone on the tour were all different ages and from all different backgrounds. We were told that our tour would be filled with scandalous stories that the Met doesn’t want us to know about. Lindsay then apologized by saying that she would be dropping the F-bomb a lot: FEMINISM PEOPLE!
We were handed sunglasses that read “Art Bitch” on the side and were told that although this tour does not look down on men and is not about men bashing, there would be certain situations in which, some women we would be discussing had been treated badly by men. In that case we were to put on the art bitch glasses and “throw them some shade”.
Lindsay had a variety of information about female artists at the Met. She gave us a rundown of the percentages of female artists to male artists from 1989 to the present. She mentioned that today, among the 475 art pieces which are on display in the modern and contemporary section of the museum, 443 of those artists are men…32 are women. Whaaaaaaaaaat!!! Not to mention that in 2014 a Georgia O’keeffe sold for 44.4 million dollars and one year later a Picasso sold for 179 million. That glass ceiling is hurting my head y’all.
Lindsay had my full attention, and everyone else’s! The goal of the tour was to celebrate the women who are represented at the Met. Thus, we followed our trusty tour guide through Ancient Greece and Rome where we came upon one of the oldest pieces of art at the Met, a 6,000 year old marble statue. “She looks pretty damn good for her age,” someone whispered. A fertility object because of the shape of her backside, the statue is thought to have been made by a woman. Lindsay also pointed out that Kim Kardashian was 6,000 years too late when she took that scandalous photo balancing a martini on her rear end for Paper Magazine a few years back. She glamorized a body type that had already been set in stone.
We then moved onto a part of the museum called “Africa, Oceana and the Americas” where we discovered “Dilukái”, a woman who saved her village with her vagina! I’m not going to say anymore about this specific piece because I want everyone I know to go take this tour. However, I will say that you too can save your community with your vagina! As suggested by our guide, look up Jaime McCartney’s “Great Wall of Vagina” not “China” people! And make a difference.
We saw so much art and we passed seas of people. The Badass Bitches that we are, we felt special because we were focused. So many tourists wandered aimlessly around with a glazed look in their eye. The museum is so immense that it’s hard to focus and difficult to pick and choose what one wants to see. Our group had a mission and a sense of camaraderie started to develop among us. One woman said that every time she comes back to New York she is going to take a Museum Hack tour. We also all agreed that our guide was a human encyclopedia who must have been an art history major. WRONG! She is a dancer! A working dancer who loves art, feminism and specific pieces of feminist art!
Once our group reached the “American Courtyard” we were asked to guess what the only sculpture made by a woman was. I guessed the complete wrong sculpture (some angel woman blowing a horn…go figure) but, someone in the group came up with the right answer. When we all looked at “The Vine” sculpted in the 1920’s by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, it was clear that this statuesque beauty was no contest. Gracious, elegant, fierce, bold and modeled after a dancer’s body “The Vine” held a stoic presence among all of the other sculptures.
Moving on to the second floor everyone put on their shades, the “art bitch” ones, when we approached Rodin’s sculptures. The story which ensued about his mistress/assistant Camille Claudel was enough to make us want to wear those sunglasses for the rest of our journey and shriek “shame, shame Rodin! Your art would be nothing without Camille!” Again, you have to take the tour to hear the gossip. But, we started to feel better when Lindsay ushered us into a corner, hid from the guards and handed out small squares of caramel chocolate. Upon handing our wrappers back to her a guard passed and Lindsay shouted, “AND THAT’S THE QUEEN’S BEDROOM! MOVING ON!” We did feel badass! We had out shades, our mouths full of chocolate AND we were supporting the women of the Met! Even the ones who were bid to hide behind the scenes.
After quite a few more stops and stories we ended up at the “Temple of Dendur”. This temple was given as a gift to the United States in 1963 and Jackie Kennedy herself went to Egypt to pick out the one she wanted. It is a complete temple and goes nicely with the Met’s largest collection of Egyptian art outside of Egypt. Also, Jackie had her choice of one of five temple’s and she chose Dendur, dedicated to the Goddess, Isis. Bitch knew how to shop! (reclaiming feminism here…)
Before we left, Lindsay printed polaroid photos of us to take home. One of the games we played was posing in front of a statue trying to help them in some way. I posed behind a Mexican princess who I thought was taking a nap…turns out she was a DYING Mexican princess. Oh well, at least I cooled her off!
I called everyone I knew after this tour to tell them they must try it! All my Brooklyn friends said the same thing, “I ain’t no tourist” and I said, “yeah well neither am I but I just tried to change the percentage of female artists at the Met!”
Our last project was to write a note on our name tags and stick them to the bulletin boards on the way out. I wrote a quote by Diane Arbus: “A photograph is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you, the less you know.” Then below the quote I wrote, “more female artists at the Met!” Then I flew back to Brooklyn on my artistic, feminist high.