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The Metropolitan Museum of Art has never seemed to suffer from wear like that peeling soufflé that is the Guggenheim. And somehow, staid as she is, the Met has never grated like the Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue with his fusty socks n’ garters reputation. Still: she does look, at times, so supremely institutional, so much like a post office or a library, that one could wish for some warmth.

And so, I predict, that New Yorkers will welcome the Met’s announcement in its Tuesday press release, of plans for changes to its Fifth Avenue façade.

Scratch that. There will be a lot of complaints. Never mind that changes to the deteriorating fountains and the rather stark four-block-long outdoor plaza are overdue. And forget that moving the fountains will improve access to the street-level public entrances at 81st and 83rd Streets.

Skip the sense behind planting approximately 100 new economically and environmentally friendly trees and shrug off any well-meaning “energy-efficient and diffused nighttime lighting” — honestly, even the charming idea that “seasonal planting will be added along the building to provide color and visual interest throughout the year,” won’t prevent the conspiracy theories.

What matters all of that when the press release says:

“The entire project will be funded through the generosity of Museum Trustee and philanthropist David H. Koch?”

Yes, David “Tea Party” Koch. Whoopsie! I can hear it now. So much for “light refreshments!”

A rendering of the new plaza in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as envisioned by the Philadelphia design firm OLIN. (via

Suddenly the plan for “two kiosks, both operated by the Museum” will sound sinister to grousing New Yorkers who, will throw up their hands and wax nostalgic.

It is, perhaps, in anticipation of this, that the wise old Met points out that “the Museum will leave untouched the most iconic element of the prior design, the monumental front steps at 82nd Street.”

For more about the plans, complete with “A rendering of the new plaza in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as envisioned by the Philadelphia design firm OLIN” see the New York Times Met Aims to Build Itself a Museum-Quality Plaza.

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Cat Weaver

Independent curator, Cat Weaver is the Brooklyn-based writer and editor of The Art Machine, a blog that covers the art market in all of its gossipy glory....