After years of limited access to the Cleveland Museum of Art, guests now are enjoying huge spaces that celebrate the museum’s past, and look brightly to the future. Last week was the opening celebration of the first exhibit in special exhibit galleries, a food service complex and an atrium that is a stunning addition to the city.
When guests enter the museum, the expected information desk and coat check are immediately available, much as they were before the renovation. The next space guests enter is the striking, new Ames Family Atrium. Across the space, they see the “backside” of the original 1916 building, which has been preserved with its classic white stone surfaces. Above is a huge sloping roof with a clear view of the sky. There are no pillars or obstructions to the view. Museum planners visualized this space as a point of orientation. Guests can decide what parts of the museum they wish to visit, and most of the galleries radiate out like points on a compass from this central rectangular space.
To the left of the atrium are the special exhibit galleries. The inaugural exhibit is “Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes.” Organized by CMA staff, the exhibit will continue through next year in Ft. Lauderdale and Ft. Worth. The time of the objects’ creation is 600-1,000 C.E., and the place is Peru. Don’t think that this exhibit of 1,000-year-old South American artifacts is dull; to the contrary, it is a very lively one. In the first of several halls, children as well as adults are fascinated with the animal representations and deities in vessels and cups.
The many textiles in the exhibit amazed me because they looked so contemporary. The influence of Wari garments in design today is very strong. The patterns unfold as you look at them. What may appear as a simple symmetrical design changes and becomes something completely different. One exhibit is a pair of large panels. Large rectangles of turquoise blue and bright yellow are formed of bird’s feathers woven into a cloth backing. Another display is a weaver’s work basket. It contains the tools and materials that were used by an artisan a thousand years ago.
On the opposite side of the atrium is a complex known as “Provenance.” Under the direction of well-known Cleveland chef Doug Katz, Provenance is a coffee shop, cafe and private dining facility, all served by a central kitchen. Guests can have a salad created to their specifications, and enjoy a sandwich or kabob prepared in a tandoori oven. Youngsters will enjoy the mac and cheese. The offerings at Provenance will change to reflect current exhibits. As a nod to the Wari exhibit, for example, there’s a focus on Peruvian coffee and chocolate.
Wari is a free exhibit, as are displays in the permanent galleries at CMA. As you leave the exhibit area, you’ll see the new, expanded gift shop, which is accessed directly from the atrium. Your museum visit is complete.