Martin's Must-Reads: 'All the Beauty in the World'
“The Grand Staircase. In the basement of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, below the Arms and Armor wing and outside the guards’ Dispatch Office, there are stacks of empty art crates. The crates come in all shapes and sizes...fit to ship rare treasures. On the morning of my first day in uniform I stand beside these sturdy, romantic things, wondering what my own role in the museum will feel like.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are the opening lines to Patrick Bringley’s memoir All the Beauty In the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me. Bringley is working at the New Yorker magazine when his brother dies from cancer. His grief process leads him to leave the magazine and hire on as a Met guard. He spends ten years there getting to know both the art and the other guards.
The Met welcomes almost seven million visitors a year. The guards insure that the priceless works of art remain untouched, but also provide directions and information about the art itself with those visitors.
Bringley writes that “the security department looks for able people who will take the work seriously...The result is a workforce that is not only diverse demographically - almost half of the guard corps is foreign born - but diverse along every axis. At the Met, I know guards who have commanded a frigate in the Bay of Bengal, driven a taxi, piloted a commercial airliner, framed houses, farmed, taught kindergarten,..... and painted facial features on department store mannequins.” As he recounts just what it means to work as a guard he also introduces us to some of the Met’s collections, especially his favorite pieces.
If you’re looking for a book that will give you insight into what it means to work at a world-famous art museum, then you must read All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Bringley.