All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me
A fascinating, revelatory portrait of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its treasures by a former New Yorker staffer who spent a decade as a museum guard.
Millions of people climb the grand marble staircase to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art every year. But only a select few have unrestricted access to every nook and cranny. They’re the guards who roam unobtrusively in dark blue suits, keeping a watchful eye on the two million square foot treasure house. Caught up in his glamorous fledgling career at The New Yorker, Patrick Bringley never thought he’d be one of them. Then his older brother was diagnosed with fatal cancer and he found himself needing to escape the mundane clamor of daily life. So he quit The New Yorker and sought solace in the most beautiful place he knew.
To his surprise and the reader’s delight, this temporary refuge becomes Bringley’s home away from home for a decade. We follow him as he guards delicate treasures from Egypt to Rome, strolls the labyrinths beneath the galleries, wears out nine pairs of company shoes, and marvels at the beautiful works in his care. Bringley enters the museum as a ghost, silent and almost invisible, but soon finds his voice and his tribe: the artworks and their creators and the lively subculture of museum guards—a gorgeous mosaic of artists, musicians, blue-collar stalwarts, immigrants, cutups, and dreamers. As his bonds with his colleagues and the art grow, he comes to understand how fortunate he is to be walled off in this little world, and how much it resembles the best aspects of the larger world to which he gradually, gratefully returns.
In the tradition of classic workplace memoirs like Lab Girl and Working Stiff, All The Beauty in the World is a surprising, inspiring portrait of a great museum, its hidden treasures, and the people who make it tick, by one of its most intimate observers.
Praise for All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me
“Exquisite… A beautiful tale about beauty. It is also a tale about grief, balancing solitude and comradeship, and finding joy in both the exalted and the mundane.” —The Washington Post
"An empathic chronicle of one museum, the works collected there and the people who keep it running — all recounted by an especially patient observer.” —The New York Times Book Review
“As rich in moving insights as the Met is in treasures, All the Beauty in the World reminds us of the importance of learning not “about art, but from it.” This is art appreciation at a profound level.”—NPR
“Hauntingly beautiful… A work of art as luminous as the old master paintings that comforted him in his grief.” —The Associated Press
“Told with real literary gusto and an impressive command of pace and shape. After finishing this book, plenty of sensitive readers will be desperate to become museum guards.” —The Times of London
“Consoling and beautiful” —The Guardian
“Bringley’s story overflows with wonder, beauty, and the persistence of hope, as he finds not just solace but meaning and inspiration in the masterpieces that surround him.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“A profound homage to the marvels of a world-class museum and a radiant chronicle of grief, perception, and a renewed embrace of life.” —Bookpage
“Earphones Award Winner… With his engaging voice, Patrick Bringley takes the listener inside New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in a uniquely personal way.” —Audiofile
“The book works on so many wonderful levels… that at the end you make plans to visit the book again, perhaps this time with it under your arm on your next visit to the Met.” —Air Mail
“This absorbing memoir is also a beautifully written manual on how to appreciate art, and life. It’s a must-read for art lovers” —Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring
“Patrick Bringley offers an intimate perspective on one of the world’s greatest institutions. But All the Beauty in the World is about much more: the strange human impulse to make art, the mystery of experiencing art, and what role art can play in our lives. What a gift.” —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind
“This book makes me yearn to have Patrick Bringley at my side in every museum I will visit for the rest of my life. Having a copy of All the Beauty in the World in my purse will be the next best thing.”—Hope Jahren, author of Lab Girl and The Story of More
“Illuminating and transformative experiences shared by a guard from one of the world’s greatest museums. Patrick Bringley is a lucky guy.”—Kerry James Marshall, artist, Mastry retrospective at the Met
“Simply wonderful. This funny, moving, beautifully written book takes the reader on a journey that unfolds as epiphanies. It is a testament to the capacity of art to illuminate life.” —Keith Christiansen, Curator Emeritus, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
“An astounding book about an astounding place. All the Beauty in the World is at once a keenly intelligent examination of the power of art and a profoundly empathetic exploration of the workaday culture that makes art visible to all.” —Alex Ross, New Yorker staff writer and author of Wagnerism and The Rest is Noise