Thursday, December 4, 2008

Re-viewing History

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. I suppose I could blame the holidays or my work on the Obama campaign, both of which have kept me from spending time in a gallery or thinking about the local art scene in any serious way. So to renew some inspiration to continue blogging, I visited my old stomping grounds at the Cleveland Museum of Art and found it wonderfully new.

I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to art by this museum, ranked in the top 5 of the world. While teaching in the Cleveland area, I gained a special appreciation for assigning my students to tour the galleries at least once or twice during their semester with me. This is truly one of the best resources with which to teach and learn about art.

While visiting most museums, I struggle to spend more than an hour per visit. Taking in so much information during a museum visit usually taxes my brain. But my recent visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art, my first since it reopened last spring, filled me with such a sense of awe that for the first time ever I didn’t want to leave.

This return to Cleveland for the holiday and to revisit my own history of art was so fitting a homecoming. The museum’s first phase re-opens the original 1916 building so entering the museum brought for me a recognizable comfort. For any art museum, a comfortable entrance is a major accomplishment. For the CMA to manage this while in the throes of construction is truly a feat recognized immediately. In fact I was so at ease that I headed up the familiar stairs near the entrance almost faster than someone could stop and redirect me to the appropriate path towards the galleries.

As most know, the CMA collection is one of the best in the world. It was difficult for me to imagine how viewing it could be made any better. Well, the galleries of the 1916 Building truly celebrate this collection in ways I’ve never seen in any museum or gallery before. (see the panoramic shots, here) As most everyone has recognized, the architect Rafael Viñoly has done an exceptional job of preserving the museum as an historical landmark in Cleveland. As we eagerly await the new jewel that is the expansion to the 1916 Building, we are comforted to know that CMA is in wonderful hands and the beauty that is the collection will be what shines ever brighter in Cleveland.

To reopen the Cleveland Museum of Art with this phase, one that celebrates the original museum (rather than the architect as is all too common to do) is a true gift to the city as well as to the collection. As we in Cincinnati look to a remodeling of the Cincinnati Art Museum, we can look to our north to such an undertaking that can be a tremendous success as long as the collection, the local community, and the museum’s history remain the focus.