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Cleveland Museum of Art announces several recent acquisitions across all departments
Wall Drawing 590A, (1989). Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007). Color in wash; 543.6x1240.8 cm.
CLEVELAND, OH.- The Cleveland Museum of Art continues to collect artworks of exceptional aesthetic and historical significance across all departments. Some of the most recent acquisitions include a mid 16th-century citrine cameo of Philip II, King of Spain and a rare 12th-century French sculpture, Virgin and Child in Majesty (Sedes Sapientiae). These objects will be incorporated into newly reinstalled Renaissance and Gothic galleries that open to the public on December 26, 2012 as part of the final phase of the museum’s transformational building campaign, scheduled for completion at the end of 2013. Other noteworthy additions reflect the museum’s continued commitment to collecting contemporary art, including Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 590A and a video installation by the Japanese artist, Tabaimo.

“These latest acquisitions reflect the museum’s commitment to develop collections in concert with the broader program of reinstallation, and to pursue opportunities to add significant new works to the museum’s historic collections as they return to the public view,” stated C. Griffith Mann, Ph.D, the museum’s deputy director and chief curator. “The addition of works like the Sol LeWitt and the Taibamo not only assert the museum’s commitment to collect the art of our time, but also capitalize on the new opportunities for display afforded by the museum’s expansion of its campus.”

Portrait of Philip II, King of Spain
Cameo is one of only three known works signed by Cesati, one of the most significant practitioners of gem carving in the Renaissance

Cameo carving, in which the subject emerges in relief from the surface, requires exceptional skill, especially in a transparent stone where the cuts are essentially uncorrectable. In this work by Alessandro Cesati, Philip II, King of Spain, appears in profile, clad in armor, with the Order of Golden Fleece (a chivalric order) around his neck. Cesati’s remarkably precise and varied cutting describes the textures of cloth, metal, skin and hair with precision. This work, which is in very good condition, likely retains its original enameled setting.

Gem carving was one of the most important and characteristic artistic forms of the Renaissance period. This object – an outstanding example of the art – would have been prized by a learned, courtly culture, where both ancient and modern gems were pursued by princely and papal collectors, such as the Medici, the Gonzaga and Pope Paul II Barbo. While they were worn as jewelry, these objects were more often intended to be contemplated and discussed among collectors and scholars. Carved gems also served as diplomatic gifts and played a particularly prominent role at the Spanish court, where numerous portraits of the royal family appear holding cameos of Philip II.

Cesati came from Cyprus, but he moved to Italy, where he became one of the most significant medalists and gem carvers of the Renaissance. In addition to his work in hard stones, Cesati served as the director of the papal mint in Rome.

The Cleveland Museum of Art holds several strong examples carved stone in the ancient, Byzantine and medieval collections as well as another Renaissance gem, a rock crystal intaglio by Valerio Belli. The Cesati object will be a centerpiece of the reinstalled Italian High Renaissance galleries in the section devoted to portraiture, providing a new perspective to the museum’s distinguished paintings collection from this time period.

Virgin and Child in Majesty (Sedes Sapientiae)
Extremely rare Romanesque wood sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary’s role in important Christian doctrine

This sculpture belongs to a type known as Sedes Sapientiae (the Throne of Wisdom). The subject shows the Virgin Mary’s role as principal mediator between God and man in the Incarnation, the moment in which Christ became human. In this sculpture, Mary is seated frontally and hieratically on a throne. She becomes the throne to the Christ Child as he perches on her lap, symbolizing her role in giving birth not only to the human Jesus, but also to the divine Christ. Sculptural depictions of the Throne of Wisdom were abundant across Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, especially in France. This sculpture belongs to an elite group of the Throne of Wisdom type produced in the Auvergne region of central France during the second half of the 12th-century.

The Auvergne Sedes Sapietiae are estimated to number only about 25 or 30 and are characterized by their softer sculptural qualities which form beautiful swirls and contours. All such sculptures are smaller than life-size which made them easily transportable. Evidence suggests that they were moved between altars or churches, and were carried in procession on town streets on Marian feast days.

Though damaged on its lower extremities, the upper portions of the sculpture have survived well and the visual integrity of the sculpture remains intact. Virgin and Child in Majesty provides the museum’s medieval collection with an exquisite example of the French Romanesque wood sculpture genre and the Throne of Wisdom subject matter, both of which are highly sought after in medieval artwork. Virgin and Child in Majesty (Sedes Sapientiae) will be featured in the newly reinstalled galleries set to open December 26, 2012.

Wall Drawing 590A
Sol LeWitt’s drawing marks a major addition to the museum’s contemporary holdings

Recently installed on the wall in the northeast corridor gallery outside of the Contemporary Galleries, Sol LeWitt’s work is visible from outside the museum, most dramatically at night, and marks the intersection of the Marcel Breuer building and the Rafael Viñoly designed east wing. Wall Drawing 590A (1989) consists of a cube washed with brightly colored paint. The cube has been a recurrent theme throughout LeWitt’s career, as seen in another work in the museum’s collection, a sculpture called 24C (1991). In producing Wall Drawing 590A, LeWitt cited influence by Trecento and Quattrocento frescoes such as those of the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy.

In addition to the sculpture 24C, the Cleveland Museum of Art holds a LeWitt wall drawing from 1969, Wall Drawing #4: A square divided horizontally and vertically into four equal parts, each with lines in different directions, currently installed in the Contemporary Galleries. Wall Drawing 590A adds a work by the same artist to the collection that is very different in its visual effect and medium. The comparison effectively highlights the differences between wall drawings and wall paintings produced by LeWitt. This acquisition, which significantly enhances the museum’s holdings of works by a major figure in contemporary American art, was presented as a gift to the museum in honor of Agnes Gund, a noteworthy philanthropist, art patron, collector and standing member of the Cleveland Museum of Art's Board of Trustees.

Blow
Multi-media installation is a significant addition to Contemporary collection by a younger generation Japanese artist

Tabaimo belongs to a generation of artists attuned to modern day Japan’s cutting-edge visual culture who also exhibit awareness of the richness and complexity of Japanese art history. She is known for her enigmatic animations that draw on traditional Japanese woodcuts (ukiyo-e) as well as modern manga (comics) and anime. Blow (2009) is a representative example of the artist’s practice of creating immersive environments that blur the boundaries between inside and out, up and down, fantasy and reality.

Featuring a wooden ramp, animated projections and sound, Blow mixes visual sources and media. Tabaimo designed the structure of the ramp and made all of the projected drawings, using an automatic calligraphy pen and stitching them together digitally. Although the animations are digitized, the images began as hundreds of drawings made by the artist, to which she added scans of softly modulated colorations of woodblock prints (ukiyo-e). The accompanying audio mix is a reverse-playing collection of found and digitally invented sounds.

Her work questions a Japanese society that is radically changing. Specifically, she explores tensions within a culture that is grappling with the relationship between capitalism and traditional forms of living and working. While the animations contain imagery that suggests narrative vignettes and identifiable motifs, they are also open-ended enough that the viewer can create his or her own meanings.

The Taibamo acquisition augments the museum’s Contemporary collection with a work that illustrates current trends in contemporary Japanese art. As an immersive installation, the work will engage audiences in a very direct way, comparable with the Martin Creed installation that was on view in the East Wing Glass Box Gallery earlier this year.

The Cleveland Museum of Art | Philip II | C. Griffith Mann |


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