Asian collection at Cleveland Museum of Arts worth seeing

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Strolling through gallery after gallery of the vast Cleveland Museum of Art, I came upon the North wing — their permanent Asian Art collection — I didn’t expect much from it.    In my experience, museums collections of Asian art feel more like the curators have an obligation than. To be honest, I went into the Cleveland museum with a bias; assuming that because the area isn’t known for their diversity, that it would reflect in their cultural space.

I was dead wrong. I didn’t foresee such an exciting collection of Asian Art — particularly that of human-sized statues of gods and guardians from India, China, Tibet, Korea and Japan and from all different periods in time. It was the most engaging Asian art exhibit I’ve ever visited.

After some post-museum research, I found that the Asian galleries were a large part of an eight-year renovation recently completed by the museum.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The eight-year, $350 million renovation and expansion of the Cleveland Museum of Art has had its ups and downs. But with the Jan. 1 opening of its west wing, it has indisputably fulfilled a century-old dream. In January 1914, founding director Frederic Allen Whiting detailed in a memo to the board his wish to develop a first-rate collection of “Oriental Art” and exhibit it in a way that would draw crowds… Its reputation for having one of the country’s finest Asian collections was thus assured early on, but works were squeezed into basement rooms and passageways. The art now has the crowd-attracting galleries it deserves. Taking up the entire west and half of the north wings, a suite of large, airy galleries accommodates close to 600 treasures, some 10% of the museum’s Asian holdings. Individually and in concert, they tell stories, evoke emotion and draw us in with their beauty.

Here’s a gallery of some of the pieces I found most interesting:

The Asian collection was the last gallery I walked though — meaning I already had “museum-legs”, but the collection revitalized me in my second hour there.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really start taking photos until I reached the Chinese collection. That means i had already walked through the India collection so my gallery isn’t representative of their Indian pieces.

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