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Arts and Entertainment

New Cleveland Museum of Art wing brings back rare pieces
Works from the Americas, Japan and Korea return after years in storage during construction

Kabir Bhatia
The floor-to-ceiling Alhambra curtain is the centerpiece of the textile gallery in the new museum's new North Wing
Courtesy of David Brichford
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In The Region:
The Cleveland Museum of Art has opened a set of permanent galleries, housed in the new North Wing. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on the latest piece of the museum’s nearly decade-long expansion.
New Cleveland Museum of Art wing brings back rare pieces

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The new wing is a time trip from the pre-Columbus Americas to Japan and Korea. The more than 400 pieces from the museum’s permanent collection cover the ritualistic, the religious and the functional.

Jennifer Foley, director of interpretation at the Museum of Art says, “I think they connect us to other places and times and in a way that is visually stunning. And they have incredible craftsmanship.”

The Korean collection
The centerpiece is Korean celadon. The pale-jade-colored ceramics are up to one-thousand years old..

“Most of those objects were gifted to the Severance family when they built a hospital in Seoul," Foley says. "So it’s also an important collection in that it connects us as an institution, and as a city, to Korea.”

The textile gallery 
Textiles make up about a tenth of the museum’s total collection. Visitors are greeted by a silk curtain from the Alhambra Palace in Spain, big enough to cover the side of a barn. Geometric red-and-orange patterns are flanked by intricate Islamic religious designs. The curtain looks as if it was made yesterday, and not 700 years ago.

Foley says the textiles "go through rotations where they come out for about half-a-year and then go sleep in the dark for five years.”

The Japanese collection

Nearby, Foley points with pride to a four-foot cylinder with open doors and an octagonal base that was once used to hold scrolls.

“The interior of the two doors, and the doors, have figures painted on them, and the interior has characters. This is a Buddhist tabernacle. It is one of two that exist on the planet. The other is in Japan.”

Old friends
Foley says the past eight years of construction at the museum of art are a reawakening, as pieces return to the public eye from storage. Maryann Warner of Cleveland agrees.

“I absolutely love it. Seeing some of these pieces again – which I haven’t seen them since the construction – it’s like seeing an old friend.”

The arrangement of the artifacts – by region as opposed to medium or chronology – was a refreshing change for Japanese art collector James Heusinger.

“It’s setup unlike any other gallery. And I liked it. It’s more of a continuum; they’re not separated. I thought that was a good idea, because they are related in many ways. So I thought it was more enjoyable the way it was set up. ”

More to come
The new North Wing is flanked by the East Wing, which includes the contemporary and impressionist collections, and the under-construction West Wing. That will be the final piece of the museum’s $350 million expansion when it opens in December with Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian art.
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