The attraction: I’ve been to some of the world’s most famous museums (the Prado in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City), and my own hometown of Philadelphia is renowned for its art museum as well. However, in my current city of residence, the principal art museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, is not as large or extensive in terms of its permanent collection. While it has some notable works, the museum, for me at least, is more of an afterthought. So when we went to the Cleveland Museum of Art, I was expecting a museum comparable to Pittsburgh’s, as in nothing too large. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. The museum is located in the city’s University Circle neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side. Its collection includes more than 30,000 works from around the world and is housed in a neoclassical, white Georgian Marble, Beaux-Arts building. The museum opened to the public in 1916.
Pros to visiting: The museum’s collections are divided into departments and feature everything from ancient Egyptian art to Pierre Auguste Renoir paintings, and I feel has enough to interest everyone, young and old. Egyptian antiquities were the first works acquired by the museum and its collection is regarded as one of the best worldwide. Although Impressionist art is generally my preferred genre, I have to admit that I was extremely captivated by the works on display, especially the painted limestone that so greatly detailed Egyptian hieroglyphics. I also enjoyed the medieval art collection and was amazed at some of the relics included, considering their unfathomable age and fine state of preservation. The modern European painting and sculpture collection was my favorite, and I discovered some beautiful works I was not familiar with, including Claude Monet’s “The Red Kerchief: Portrait of Mrs. Monet” and Pablo Picasso’s “The Artist’s Sister Lola.” Admission to the museum is free, as is the case for all of the other museums found in the University Circle neighborhood as well. This was the vision of its founders, keeping general admission free to the public, forever; exhibitions, however, do carry an entrance cost. The grounds of the museum are lovely, especially Wade Park, which contains an outdoor gallery.
Cons to visiting: The museum’s building and rennovation project which began in 2005 was originally supposed to be completed this year, but now won’t be finished until 2013. As such, some galleries are closed. In addition, there is extra walking to get to some of the other galleries. However, based on some of the pictures I saw of the rennovation’s progress, it looks like it will be stunning when finished.
Conclusion: I was extremely blown away by the museum and was greatly impressed by its strong and varied collections. I did, however, discover that it has one of the largest endowments (estimated at $600 million) in the United States which certainly accounts for a lot. The fact that the museum is free is wonderful, especially since almost a century later, it holds true to the vision of its founders. It’s a great way to spend a relaxing morning, afternoon, or entire day.