The Met Announces Upcoming Two-Year Renovation of British Galleries
Design Firm Roman and Williams to Collaborate

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has embarked on an ambitious renovation project, in which 10 galleries, including three historic interiors, devoted to British decorative arts and sculpture of the early 16th through 19th century will be reimagined and reinstalled. The current galleries will close in fall 2016 for approximately two years. When they reopen, they will present British art and design from a fresh perspective, exploring creativity in Britain’s extraordinarily entrepreneurial society. Brilliant at creating new markets where none existed, endlessly resourceful in the development of new materials and technologies, and inventive in their adaptation of stylistic models from across Europe and Asia, British artists, traders and patrons continually broke new ground.

The National Design Award-winning New York City firm Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors is collaborating with The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts and other staff to create a spectacular, narrative-rich, and profoundly sympathetic setting for the works of art. The British Galleries, comprised of the Annie Laurie Aitken Galleries and the Josephine Mercy Heathcote Gallery, include some 11,000 square feet of display space. They were established in the 1980s and were most recently refreshed after the 2006 Anglomania exhibition.

“The positioning of 400 years of British decorative arts and design within the Museum’s global context will be a revelation,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Met. “Our renovation will present a more nuanced story of the history of British design, setting the stage for our visitors to truly appreciate these marvelous objects and interiors.”

The three magnificent 18th-century rooms from Kirtlington Park, Croome Court, and Lansdowne House—transformed by new lighting and meticulous restoration—will remain at the heart of the new galleries. A recently conserved terracotta bust by the Florentine Pietro Torrigiano (1472–1528) represents the work of one of the many European artists and craftsmen who made their way across the Channel. Also featured will be numerous examples of 18th-century design shaped by entrepreneurs like Nicolas Sprimont (1713–1771), founder of the Chelsea Porcelain factory; James Cox (ca. 1723–1800) retailer of precious table ornaments; Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795) who perfected the production of his pioneering pottery; and Matthew Boulton (1728–1809) who brought engineering skills to the manufacture of glamorous metalwork. Exciting acquisitions include works by the Gothic Revival designer Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–1852), passionate champion of a national style, and the visionary designer Christopher Dresser (1834–1904), who embraced all the capabilities of industrial manufacturing.

The Met’s curatorial team for the British Galleries renovation project is directed by Luke Syson, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and led by Ellenor Alcorn, Curator. Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch are the principals of the design firm Roman and Williams.

Roman and Williams is best-known for its work with restaurant and hotel interiors; the British Galleries at The Met are its first museum project. The tension between past and future that is a hallmark of the design firm’s work dovetails with the curatorial commitment to create galleries that will make the past relevant to The Met’s international visitors for decades to come. The stimulating collaboration has brought curators and designers together in a creative enterprise that mirrors the experience of the British artists and makers whose works will be presented.

The British Galleries will be featured on The Met’s website, as well as on Facebook,Instagram, and Twitter.

# # #

May 17, 2016