If I’m lucky, I get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art maybe a few times a year, but it’s one of musician and artist Micah Gaugh’s favorite places in the city so he goes far more often than I do. For him, it’s a place to check out completely, to see something new, to make fun of the artwork, to wander and, on a day like today, escape the sleet-snow-wind combination plaguing the city.
Micah is originally from Panama, was raised in Texas, and lives in Brazil part of the year. The rest of the year, he stays in the East Village, where by this point he has spent much of his life. Credited with coining the phrase and genre “avant-pop,” Micah has performed with music greats like Arto Lindsay, Cecil Taylor, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, Bootsy Collins, Thurston Moore, and countless others. He plays alto saxophone, piano, bass, and more; he sings, writes lyrics, and composes. One of his compositions, a ballet called Highrise, was performed at Lincoln Center. He has four albums under his belt, the latest possibly coming this year. As a visual artist, Micah has shown his work around the world as well.
When Micah arrives at the Met to meet me, he’s wearing a suede poncho of layered colors, a black furry coat, paint-patterned jeans, a brown blazer with a checked shirt and a polka dot ascot of sorts from which hang a teeny stuffed animal, chains, a small skull.
Though the museum is teeming with tourists, as it always is, Micah knows his way around well enough that soon we’re no longer immersed in the throng. Today I will see parts of the museum I didn’t know existed, from the simple coat check downstairs for which there is no line, to the below-ground entrance, to rooms of medieval and Renaissance decor, a Frank Lloyd Wright on-site installation, a recreation of a traditional Shaker room, an ancient iron staircase, Tiffany lamps, and god knows what else. We also end up seeing work that Micah didn’t know about, even as someone who comes to the museum several times a year. He knows where his favorite things are--like an enclave between Medieval Art and Arms and Armor that houses a bedroom circa 1719 from Venice’s Sagredo Palace--but has to wander to find them because that’s how he found them in the first place.
Toward the end of our visit to the museum, we check out one of Micah’s favorite works in the collection, “Allegory of the Planets and Continents,” an oil sketch by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo from 1752. The sketch shows the god Apollo about to embark on his daily trip across the sky. Micah puts on a pair of big, black Jackie O-style glasses to look at it before we move on. We’ll soon make our way down the museum’s grand stairs, take a peek at the Egyptian collection, and head back out into the sleet which will stick to Micah’s poncho as he walks away.