Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Cincinnati Art Museum Keeps Humming While Renovating

CAM Raises the Roof on the Old Art Academy for Renovation
      We visited the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) last week and were impressed by the variety of exhibits currently on view.  Hats off to Museum Director Aaron Betsky for keeping the museum open and rethinking its space while it undergoes a renovation on the second floor.  A few years ago, the Cleveland Museum of Art kept the special exhibitions space open, but closed the rest of the museum for a renovation.  I realize it may have been a more extensive renovation than Cincinnati’s, but I wonder about its affect on tourism.

A Very Creative String Curtain Entrance
Mrs. Philip Thicknesse
by Thomas Gainsborough
CAM has taken out the changing vintage automobile at the entrance, which is a shame, but also moved the dreary sculptures from antiquities from the Schmidlapp Gallery– yeah, I know the Egyptian and Roman pieces are important, but it seemed like walking into an ancient funeral parlor or
your great-grandmother’s living room with all of its chipped ‘heirlooms.’  I have nothing against those pieces, but do they have to be the first things people have to see, especially if they’re not really into art in the first place?  CAM has replaced them with examples of its greatest hits placed behind long string curtains in a way that looks like either a really ritzy jewelry store or a postmodern Casbah. Great idea!

A Storehouse Gallery from the Museum Collection
      One of the main second floor galleries that usually houses visiting or special exhibitions is under construction so there are many pieces making up The Collections: 6,000 Years of Art in the other special exhibitions gallery.  It’s supposed to look like the museum’s storage area (or an archaeological dig or Ali Baba’s cave, though Neil thought it looked exactly like the British Museum and that’s not an endorsement) and the pictures are triple hung, which always makes me cringe, and there are tons of items in glass display boxes.  I loudly voiced my displeasure because it makes it really difficult to know where to look and what’s significant.  However, another visitor thought it was excellent because it seemed so scientific and he stated how much he disliked the entrance gallery because it looked like a high-class mall.  “Oh well,” I said, “it takes all types,” and he agreed.  

      A quick shout out to Cynthia Amnéus, curator for textiles, because she’s had a wonderful year.  Earlier, she put together the extraordinary Wedding Dress show from the 18th century through the present with many pieces from the permanent collection as well as loans from major designers (Dior, Vera Wang, Zac Posen, to name just a few) and even Queen Elizabeth.  It deservedly broke attendance records.  Through January 1, there’s Art Deco:  Fashion and Design in the Jazz Age, which is centered on dresses donated by former Cincinnati resident, but now residing in Huntington, Betty Colker.  Mrs. Colker hoped her mother would bequeath her a dress from the ‘20s when she died.  When she discovered the dress was missing from the estate, she began collecting garments from that period from Europe and the Americas.  She’s donated to CAM (and I’m assuming to other museums as well) and the pieces are works of wearable art.  

      CAM always has two or three interesting exhibits running concurrently, plus some gorgeous examples of the Baroque and Impressionist-Abstract Expressionist periods.  There’s the Cincinnati Wing that shows both natives and tourists why Cincinnati was a major force in decorative and ceramic arts a hundred years ago and the Terrace Café that we’ve written about here earlier this year.  All this is available for a $4 parking coupon (entrance is free due to the generous gifts of the Rosenthals).  It’s a jewel box of a museum that most visitors can view in a couple of hours or so, which I think is a major bonus.

I bet there were lots of paintings of cats!

No comments: