Between a Column and a Hard Place

Midwest
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
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The new East Wing at the Cleveland Museum of Art (photos: Brad Feinknopf).

Rafael Vinoly recently completed a new addition and renovation at the Cleveland Museum of Art, a major encyclopedic collection set in the city’s leafy University Circle area, which includes Case Western Reserve University and cultural institutions like the famed Cleveland Orchestra. The campus includes a 1916 Beaux Arts building and a Marcel Breuer-designed addition from 1971. Vinoly reportedly worked closely with the museum’s then director Timothy Rub, and critics have praised the addition’s galleries and the improved circulation throughout the complex.


While I’m not wild about the stripes on the exterior of the new East Wing, which at first seem like an odd echo of postmodernism from Vinoly, Breuer used similar bands of stone in his wing, and Vinoly’s substantial proportions in masonry and glass strike a good balance between Beaux Arts and Brutalism. This is the first of a two-phase expansion.

Marcel Breuer's 1971 addition.

Rub recently left Cleveland for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he will oversee a major expansion at that museum by Frank Gehry. If it turns out as well as Vinoly’s work in Cleveland, the Philadelphia project will help to put to rest the belief that Gehry’s museums are not very art- or curator-friendly.

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