A Look at the Met Breuer Before the Doors Open

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A Look at the Met Breuer Before the Doors Open

When the world was given a pre-opening peek in 1966 at the building designed by Marcel Breuer on East 75th Street and Madison Avenue, the new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the ceremony was nearly canceled because of a bomb threat, one that would have sent luminaries like Jacqueline Kennedy and Mayor John V. Lindsay into the streets.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art formally reintroduced the building as the Met Breuer, its new Brutalist outpost for Modern and contemporary art, and the gathering was an altogether quieter affair. The only bombshells were on the walls: Leonardos, Titians, Rembrandts and Turners that at first glance looked so strange amid the Breuer’s trapezoidal windows and glowering-grid ceiling coffers that they seemed to be parts of a conceptual work devised by a wry contemporary artist — maybe Jeff Koons, who collects old masters and was the subject of the Whitney’s send-off to the space in October 2014.

But Met curators and officials, who migrated from Fifth Avenue in droves on Tuesday for a crowded news media preview of the building, described this sense of dislocation as gratifying for an encyclopedic museum, especially one that has long struggled to bring the masterpieces of the last century into conversation with those from the five or so millenniums preceding. […]