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Metropolitan Museum of Art

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New York. The largest and most comprehensive collection of art in the USA and one of the greatest in the world. It was founded in 1870 by a group of art collectors, civic leaders, and philanthropists, and after two temporary locations for the museum, it opened at its present site in Central Park in 1880. The building was designed by Calvert Vaux (one of the creators of Central Park) in Gothic style, and the grandiose classical entrance façade overlooking Fifth Avenue was added in stages and completed in 1926. There have been numerous other extensions over the years, and the original building now forms only a small part of the vast structure. The museum is owned by the city, but is supported mainly by private endowment, and the history of its foundation and growth illustrates the rapid rise of New York at the end of the 19th century as the financial and cultural capital of North America, and the growing economic supremacy of America over Europe. In the first half-century or so of its existence, at a time when the major public collections in Europe were engaged in consolidation, relying largely on their purchase grants and other state aid, the Metropolitan Museum was being built up out of the private fortunes of great businessmen, who collected for prestige rather than out of connoisseurship, but collected only first-class works of art. It has also benefited from a number of endowed purchase grants, many of them unconditional, and its collections are now rich in virtually every field of the fine and applied arts from all parts of the world. Much of the collection of medieval art is housed in a separate building called the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River. Opened in 1938, the Cloisters is a medieval-style structure, largely made up of parts of Romanesque and Gothic buildings transported from Europe. Many of the works it houses were collected by the American sculptor George Grey Barnard (1863–1938), who lived in France for much of his career.

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