Though not as big as the Metropolitan Museum (what is?), this "mini Met"—it covers almost all eras of history in its holdings—is a superb museum on its own terms. Its Egyptian Collection, while not as extensive as the Met’s, arguably has more masterpieces. In fact, when an ancient Egyptian piece comes up at auction, dealers often ask, "Is it Brooklyn quality?"—the Brooklyn Museum’s collection being the benchmark for this sort of artifact. Among the collection’s many wonders are a tiny 5,000-year-old, pre-dynastic terra-cotta sculpture of a woman, which curators have nicknamed "Birdwoman" for her beaklike face, one of the very few intact sculptures from this long-ago era. The Cartonnage of Nespanetjerenpere is another highlight, a mummy case that looks like it was swiped from the set of Revenge of the Mummy, its colors electrically bright and unfaded. I highly recommend renting the audio tour ($3) for this gallery, as it will explain how these works were created, what the symbolism means, and what they reveal about life in ancient Egypt.
Second most popular among the museum’s offerings are the Decorative Arts Galleries (on the fourth floor), which re-create important rooms from different eras of American history, including John D. Rockefeller’s “Moorish Smoking Room,” an extravagantly over-the-top Victorian version of the Middle East, every single bit of space lavishly carved, gilded, inlaid, or embroidered.
Also worth a look: the Museum’s American Collection (works by such masters as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Georgia O’Keeffe); the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (permanent and rotating exhibitions of art made by women, including Judy Chicago’s famous “The Dinner Party”); and whatever special exhibitions are taking place (they’re often stellar).
And one final thing that the Brooklyn does better than the Met: party. On the first Saturday of each month, the museum throws open its doors, hires deejays and performers of all sorts, and throws a “First Saturday” fiesta free to the public from 5–11pm.
- Pauline Frommer