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John Quincy Adams Ward, The Freedman, 1863, this cast, 1891
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American Art

Photos by Walter Robinson

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"We got scissors?" asked Metropolitan Museum PR veep (and Abraham Lincoln scholar) Harold Holzer, as he scrambled to set up the mass ribbon cutting that would launch the Met's "New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture and Decorative Arts," to use the official appellation, on the morning of Jan.12, 2012.

More than 20 trustees, museum staff, politicians and patrons -- including museum director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell, board president Emily K. Rafferty, New York congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and NYC cultural affairs commissioner Kate D. Levin -- quickly hacked a giant red ribbon to pieces while standing in front of E.G. Leutze's glorious 1851 painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware.

The 26 new galleries, most distinguished by skylit cove ceilings and an unusual dado of smooth white limestone, provide a setting for the Met's American paintings that is now on par with the design of the European paintings galleries. Architect for the project is Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, the museum's longtime architectural firm.

Visitors will find galleries dedicated to John Singleton Copley, folk art, colonial furniture, "Era of the Revolution," the Hudson River School, the Civil War era, "Portraiture in the Grand Manner," Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins, "The West," American Impressionism, Ashcan painters and more.

"It's another jewel in a great museum," said Maloney. The new galleries are the third and final phase of a multiphase, eight-year-long renovation project, under the general direction of the state chairman of the department, Morrison H. Heckscher. The official opening of the new galleries is Monday, Jan. 16, 2012.

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