The Cleveland Museum of Art is undergoing major renovations as the museum expands both its exhibit space and its educational facilities. Unlike the Columbus Museum of Art, however, there is still a lot to see during the construction. In fact, I would go so far as to say that even while under construction, the museum is nearly on par with the Chicago Art Institute in terms of the depths of its collection and the design of the space. I spent over three hours in the museum, which I felt was about the perfect amount of time to enjoy the collection.
With the current layout of the museum (which accommodates the remodel) you are basically forced to work your way through starting with the contemporary galleries and then moving back through history. I guess it was a kind of reverse evolution, and perhaps that’s a good way to see art history to break up the usual routine.
The very first gallery housed an amazing Rothko, and as I mention in my Cincinnati visit , I become more enamored with the artist’s work with each piece I see. I spent at least 20 minutes in front of the piece, almost unable to move. This piece is a typical composition for Rothko, a solid color ground in front of which float three soft color fields – burnt umber, gold, and black in the center. The center field draws the viewer in- it feels like you are looking into a deep, dark hole. The effect is solitude, and I can’t help but feel the work is autobiographical.
Photography isn’t permitted in the museum’s twenty and twenty-first century collections. I may, or may not, have taken some illicit camera-phone shots, but the Rothko didn’t come out.
In the same corner of the gallery you will find a nice little DeKooning, a very impressive Jackson Pollock and a Franz Kline. They also have a huge Lee Krasner which I actually found to be one of the nicest pieces in the modern collection.
My intention is not to give you a full run-down of everything I saw, but I do want to touch on a few highlights. The museum has some spectacular Picassos, including a seminal Blue-Period piece (not remembering the title right now, but you should see it among the photos below). The impressionists were well represented by a large Monet water-lily, and a Degas ballerina panorama. There were several strong Matisses, Cezannes and on and on. In other words, think of your favorite artist and the museum probably has at least one of his/her works, and in all likelihood they will be important works, not token pieces. The museum has a fabulous Rodin atrium as well- not to mention the Thinker sitting out in front of the Museum’s old entrance.
Finally, I have to mention that the ancient art galleries are particularly impressive. The quality of the work is awe-inspiring. There is a bronze Kouros as you come down the stairs that will show you we have nothing on the Greeks when it comes to casting. Here is a piece that is almost 3000 years old and despite the inevitable damage (missing arms and some small fissures and cracks) the piece is as natural and life-like as any modern sculpture.
If you are in Cleveland, be absolutely sure to take an afternoon and visit the museum.
Here are some photos – forgive the quality of some of the shots, and please don’t turn me in to the museum police if I accidentally shot a photo or two of something I shouldn’t have.
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.