Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Taking Stock of the New-Old Met Breuer

Artist Kerry James Marshall wore the perfect shirt to the opening of the Met Breuer on Tuesday. A bright grass green, it provided a focal point among the black, gray, and navy sea of arts writers assembled to observe just how Marcel Breuer’s 1966 Whitney Museum building looked under long-term lease. (The museum opens to the public March 18.)

Backed by Breuer’s elegant staircase between lobby and basement, Marshall’s shirt recalled the colors, pigmented to pop, of the modern, large-scale American art the building was made for. Breuer’s earthy interior palette of concrete, bluestone and oiled bronze set off the color fields and metallic experiments of its era, a hard shell for work that ranged from Calder mobiles to Jay DeFeo’s two-ton Rose.

The Met’s new, controversial branding also embraces color, with two slim standards on the museum’s Madison Avenue wall and the underside of the concrete bridge both a brilliant red. On the long skinny flags, the new logo, whose attached verticals make me feel queasy, looks good. It read better at city scale than on any of the print and digital media I’ve seen to date, simple and bold.

As I strolled the first two exhibitions in the galleries, one a retrospective of Indian minimalist artist Nasreen Mohamedi, the other a survey show of uncompleted artworks titled Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, I missed that sense of friction and performance. The Met’s deadly greige had taken hold—for now.