After a five-year hiatus, the Cleveland Museum of Art
s (CMA) collections from the ancient Near East, Greece, Rome, Egypt and Africa, as well as works from Late Antiquity, the Byzantine Empire and the European Middle Ages, will return to public view on June 26. The new presentation will trace the evolution of the visual and cultural traditions at the roots of Western civilization and foster an understanding of the ritual, social and historical contexts within which these works of art were produced. At the same time, visitors will be encouraged to explore connections to art from other periods on view throughout the museum.
The works will be showcased in 17 newly renovated galleries, which also include dedicated spaces for the museums holdings of prints and drawings, in the first level of the museums original Beaux-Arts building, designed by Hubbell and Benes. Their unveiling will mark the next milestone in a multi-phase renovation and expansion, scheduled for completion in 2013. The project is designed by architect Rafael Viñoly and will add 200,000 square feet to the museum. Last summer, the museum celebrated the opening of the first of three new wings, a structure that unites the original building with a 1971 expansion by Marcel Breuer.
The New Galleries
Two sets of stairs lead visitors from the upper-level galleries of European and American art (reopened in 2008) down to a foyer that showcases the life-size bronze statue of the Apollo Sauroktonos attributed to Praxiteles, one of the most influential Greek artists of the Classical period. From that entry point, a chronological narrative will unfold over a 16,000-square-foot suite of galleries. Within each historical area, objects will be organized thematically to foster awareness of and promote insights into their function and meaning for the cultures that produced them.
The remarkable works that will be displayed in these galleries were critical to the development of the visual arts as we know them, says Griffith Mann, chief curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Our goal has been to showcase the artistic achievements of ancient cultures to their best advantage and, at the same time, integrate these objects as part of the greater museum experience.
For the first time, the museums sub-Saharan African collections will be displayed in spaces contiguous to the galleries of ancient Egyptian art so that the works produced on the African continent can be seen and studied together. Surrounding galleries are connected by larger cultural and historical arcs, allowing visitors to move from the burgeoning civilizations of the ancient Near East to the seafaring culture of the Greek world and the rise of the Roman empire, which adopted and reinvented the artistic and religious traditions of its predecessors.
In adjoining galleries, visitors will encounter Byzantine and western medieval art in installations that forge connections to the ritual and ceremonial functions of the works on view. First-person narratives incorporated in introductory text panels throughout the galleries, as well as via a new audio tour, will connect contemporary audiences with ancient and medieval voices.
The new first-level galleries will feature approximately 900 works acquired from the museums charter days in the early 20th century through to the present. Highlights include:
Statuette of a Woman: The Stargazer, c. 3000 BC, probably from Anatolia, the Asian part of modernday Turkey, the earliest sculpture of the human figure in the museum;
Winged Genie Pollinating Date Palm, 883-859 BC, Iraq, Nimrud, Assyrian, reign of Ashurnasirpal II, speaks of the large numbers of prisoner-slaves who built the vast palace that served as the original setting of the relief, recently cleaned and conserved for the installation;
Female Worshipper, c. 1600-1500 BC, Crete, Minoan, Middle Minoan III-Late Minoan I, an extremely rare bronze statuette in excellent condition;
The Emperor as Philosopher, probably Marcus Aurelius (reigned AD 161-180), c. 175-200, Turkey, Roman, among the finest large bronze sculptures to have survived the Greco-Roman age;
The Jonah Marbles, c. 280-290, Asia Minor, probably Phrygia (Central Turkey), Early Christian, a unique sculptural ensemble believed to have been unearthed together and known for its quality and excellent condition;
Chalice from the Beth Misona Treasure, c. 500-700, Byzantium, Syria or Constantinople, named for the village in Syria where it was made;
Statue of Heqat, the Frog Goddess, c. 3050-2900 BC, Egypt, Predynastic Period, Late Naqada III Period to Early Dynastic Period, Early Dynasty 1 (2950-2573 BC), marks the beginning of the great tradition of animal sculpture in Egyptian art;
Icon of the Virgin and Child, 500s, Egypt, Byzantine period, a unique surviving Coptic tapestry;
Apollo Sauroktonos (Lizard-Slayer), c. 350-275 BC; attributed to Praxiteles, the only known life-size bronze version of the Apollo Sauroktonos, possibly viewed by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD and cited in his writings; and
Staff of Office (kibango), late 1700s-early 1800s, Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba peoples, one of the Luba Kings most important royal attributes.
CMAs Renovation and Expansion
The opening of the first-level galleries marks the completion of CMAs restoration of its original building. In 2008, the museum opened the upper-level galleries, culminating the first phase in the renovation and expansion project.
The refurbished galleries will create a beautiful, Classical space perfectly married to our collections of antiquities and will allow visitors to see these works in a new light, says CMA Interim Director Deborah Gribbon. Although this moment finds us looking back in history to our cultural and artistic foundations, it is the next step in a program that will transform the Cleveland Museum of Art.
When the building project is completed, the facility will include the museums two fully renovated architectural landmarks, the 1916 Beaux-Arts building and Breuers 1971 addition with its distinctive façade of alternating light and dark grey granite stripes, as well as Viñolys two new striped marble and granite wings on the east and west sides of the complex. Each ending in a dramatic glass-box gallery, the wings will offer panoramic views of the museums park setting, as well as views into the museum galleries and conservation studios. A third new 39,000-square-foot structure will form the north side of a large courtyard with a glass canopy crowning an atrium at the center of the complex.
Components of the project include:
The renovation of two architecturally significant buildings the museums original building, designed by Hubbell and Benes and opened to the public in 1916, and the 1971 Center for Arts and Education designed by Marcel Breuer;
The addition of 200,000 square feet to the facility, including three new wings;
The creation of a 39,000-square-foot glass-enclosed atrium that will unite the entire complex and serve as the visual and spatial heart of the museum;
The creation of a new Lifelong Learning Center that brings the museums collection to life in innovative ways through interactive, hands-on activities for museum visitors of all ages;
Improved visitor amenities, including parking with covered access to the museum, a spacious new café and restaurant and an expanded museum store;
Enhanced facilities for storage and study of the collection;
New state-of-the-art conservation studios;
New offices and workrooms; and
Additional space to house the Ingalls Library and a new, light-filled reading room and reference area.
Visitors enter through the Breuer building which reopened after extensive renovations in late 2006. Now named the Center for Arts and Education, this building has been rededicated to the service of the museums educational programs. For the first time, all of CMAs education and library resources have been consolidated into a single building. The re-designed museum complex greatly enhances access to art, education facilities and performing arts events. Visitors will be able to move easily from the Breuer building into the new atrium and the 1916 building just beyond. Connections to the east and west wings will be available on the first and second floors.
The founding vision of the Cleveland Museum of Art was to create a beautiful setting for what would become one of this countrys great encyclopedic art collections, as well as to make this experience accessible to everyone, free of charge. Over time, as its collection grew and educational programs expanded, the museum evolved into a mosaic of buildings and the clarity of the original architecture was lost. Additions were completed in 1958, 1971 and 1983.
The original Beaux-Arts building, widely acknowledged as one of the finest museum designs of the early 20th century, became peripheral and navigation through the galleries became increasingly challenging. Many parts of the complex were in need of extensive renovations. The capital project currently underway will transform the museums physical layout and infrastructure and significantly improve both the visitor experience and the storage and presentation of the collection.