This is the Buddha, standing prominently when you enter the Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian galleries in the newly completed West Wing of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
(Lisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer)
The Cleveland Museum of Art's redesign emphasizes cultural diversity:
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s recently completed $320 million expansion and renovation project has given the institution a fresh, innovative quality for which it hasn’t yet received — or claimed — much attention.
And that change can be summed up in two words: cultural parity.
Most of the nation’s big art museums segregate their collections in self-contained departments or treat art history as a straight-line narrative organized according to Western notions of scientific and technological progress, beginning with the ancient past and proceeding up to the present.
At the Cleveland museum, where permanent collection galleries surround a big central atrium, art history now unfolds as a 5,000-year global dialogue among civilizations, without a sense of hierarchy.
Instead, the museum’s new layout emphasizes a sense of balance and connection among global cultures, and especially between Asian and Western art.
The Egyptian galleries doubled in size, to nearly 3,000 square feet. Textiles, which didn’t have a dedicated gallery before the renovation, now has a 1,270-square-foot space for rotating exhibits.
African-art galleries expanded by 22 percent, to nearly 1,500 square feet, and Islamic art gained 92 percent, to about 1,500 square feet. Pre-Columbian and Native American art went from 2,663 to 3,250 square feet — a 22 percent uptick.
The message is subtle, pervasive and deeply thought-provoking.
That feels very fitting at a time when the United States is about to become a majority minority country. And in a melting-pot city composed of scores of ethnic immigrant populations from around the world, the museum’s new perspective on cultural diversity feels right on target.
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Another good example of a museum moving to reflect the changes that have occurred in the community. The museums collection itself did not have to change just it's priorities. GL