Visiting the Museum of Biblical ArtPosted: April 7, 2011
Every time I walk from Columbus Circle up to the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center I am intrigued by the curved glass facade of the Museum of Biblical Art. It juts out into the sidewalk at the corner of Broadway and 61st Street before bending uptown, enticing passers-by to the front door. Even though I adore religious art, my slightly irrational fear of religious institutions had kept me from venturing inside (The MoBiA is run by The American Bible Society). This week I finally succumbed to temptation.
Upon entering through the front doors, a security guard directed me to the left and up the glass-enclosed stair seen from the
street. The second floor was not the proselytizing array of pamphlets I had imagined but a regular museum admissions desk with brochures on the current exhibition. I paid the suggested donation and handed my coat and bag to the attendant (you are required to check all coats and bags) and then moved through the double-height glass doors into the gallery.
It is a relatively small space when compared to behemoth institutions like the MoMA or the Met but I could tell immediately that exhibition values at the MoBiA were high. The walls were painted a muted umber color and the lighting was not too bright. Everything complemented the art. Which was exquisite.
The current exhibition, Passion in Venice, is focussed on artistic depictions of The Man of Sorrows, a recurring image of Christ rising out of the tomb that originated in Byzantium and became popular in Venetian art through the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The museum borrowed art from collections all over the world and some of them are just jaw dropping.
There is a series of works– a painting, a drawing, and a print– by Renaissance master Paolo Veronese depicting two angels holding up a wounded, lifeless Christ. And also a beautifully carved memento mori pendant featuring Christ rising from the top of his own head. There were many paintings but also iluminated manuscripts, sculpture, and even a video work by contemporary artist Bill Viola. Much of the work shown was as emotionally evocative as it was aesthetically pleasing. I’m a total sucker for gold leaf.
And the exhibition was small enough that I felt I could take the time to real all of the labels and highly informative wall texts. It was a very rich meditative experience and one I would not mind repeating in future.
The Museum of Biblical Art
1865 Broadway at 61st Street
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm; Thursdays open till 8
Recommended admission fee: $7 for adults, $4 for students and seniors
This is a high-quality little museum great for meditation on religious symbolism and art. Bring a friend or go alone.