The documentary’s second part, “All Things to All People?”, explores how, in the summer of 2020, the museum begins to confront its past, exemplified, in part, by curators adding historical context to descriptions of works of art, to encourage dialogue and explore different points of view. A Jamaican-born Black woman from Connecticut visits the museum with her two young daughters; the three discuss their reactions to what they see. Puerto Rican visual artist Miguel Luciano and Toronto-based Cree artist Kent Monkman, whom the Met commissioned to create two huge paintings for its Great Hall that featured Monkman’s nonbinary alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, also are interviewed.
“Love and Money,” the documentary’s third part, shows the museum reopening in a safe and limited way while facing a Covid-19 cash crisis. Planning for and construction of its newest Costume Institute exhibition, “About Time,” a highlight of the fall and winter season, are explored. Collectors Diane and Arthur Abbey, whose promised gift of more than 70 Japanese bamboo works was featured in a 2017 exhibition, are interviewed in their Fifth Avenue home, across from the museum. Legendary women’s couture collector Sandy Schreier is interviewed in her Michigan home, describing gifts of used clothing she received—which ultimately became the basis of her collection—from wealthy clients of her furrier father. Also featured are a young Californian of Vietnamese descent who is a new intern at the Cloisters, the Met’s medieval outpost in northern Manhattan, and a young couple on one of their first dates, who wander through the museum’s galleries and compare notes on the art they encounter.
English filmmaker Ian Denyer made the documentary for Oxford Film and Television on two visits, a 10-day stint in spring 2019, and a three-month stay in the late summer and fall of 2020. Originally the first part of the documentary was to focus on the business of running the Met, the second on what he calls its “new breed of curators,” and the third on its conservation and acquisition efforts. Denyer said he had to “tear up” these plans as a result of the pandemic, focusing instead on the museum’s “fight for survival.”
He filmed many people crying, including curators, as well as visitors to the museum immediately after it reopened, who weep for joy to be able to return to one of their favorite places. He called filming these individuals “deeply emotional” and said he found their reactions “very fitting.”