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Cleveland Museum of Art Marks Another Project Milestone
The Roman marble bust "Head of a Noble or Official," dating from A.D. 150-175, front right, appears with other Roman busts at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, on Friday, June 25, 2010. The piece is part of 17 new galleries, which will open to the public on Saturday, featuring more than 900 works of art from the Ancient Near East, Greece, Rome and Egypt as well as Byzantine, medieval and African art, prints and drawings. AP Photo/Amy Sancetta.

Thomas J. Sheeran, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP).- The Cleveland Museum of Art has given some of its prized treasures more elbow room to show off.

Galleries housing Egyptian, Greek, Roman, early Christian, Byzantine and African art open Saturday. The new space marks another milestone in an eight-year, $350 million expansion and renovation that began in 2005.

The museum's iconic 1916 neoclassical building holds items spanning 5,000 years. The galleries highlighting art from ancient Greece to the Medieval era surround those with Egyptian and African art.

Mary Lindsey Swaney, 56, of Mentor, got a sneak preview Friday and was impressed.

"I could spend all day here," she said. "It's beautiful. It's amazing. I think it's awesome."

It also has a different look, with some early visitors thinking the collection had changed. While the collection is largely the same, new surroundings give it an unfamiliar feel.

"The objects do look fresh and new and different with this installation," Stephen N. Fliegel, Medieval art curator, said during a media preview. And that may take getting used to, he said.

But with familiarity will come better understanding and clarity, said Fliegel and Michael Bennett, curator of Greek and Roman art.

The galleries flow in a clockwise fashion and provide a roomier feel than the old installations.

"It was very compressed," Fliegel said "Here we've been able to put a lot more space between the objects."

The installations also allow context, including a gallery designed as a Byzantine chapel, with a cross and sacred vessels.

"I don't think the objects themselves, as beautiful and important as they are, I don't think they speak for themselves," Fliegel said. "So they do need context."

The chronological path will aid visitor understanding of the progression of art from ancient Greece and Rome to the Christian era, Bennett said.

"The objects are grouped in a very logical way now," he said. "It allows us to tell the engaging narrative in a very clear and compelling way."

Gerald Guest, art history and humanities chair at John Carroll University in nearby University Heights, said the project will provide an enviable showcase for the museum's collections.

"It will give them an extraordinary canvas on which to work and to stage one of the great collections in this country," he said.

The overall project will provide 30 percent more gallery space plus more space for educational programs and events and visitor-friendly upgrades including a new cafe.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

The Cleveland Museum of Art | Mary Lindsey Swaney | Stephen N. Fliegel | Michael Bennett |

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