Find globe-worthy art treasures near you

There are many flavors of obnoxious New Yorkers. Mine: the well-traveled provincial. Before the pandemic I counted alarming carbon emi...


There are many flavors of obnoxious New Yorkers. Mine: the well-traveled provincial. Before the pandemic I counted alarming carbon emissions in search of art, I didn’t think about going to East Asia or South Africa for a single exhibition or performance – then I overlooked institutions in one or two time zones. When the lockdown came in and the power of my passport narrowed, I made the embarrassing calculation that I had been to four times as many foreign countries as there were US states.

Go west, young Manhattanite! My post-pandemic (“post” -pandemic: wishful thinking) resolution was to visit the amazing museums of my homeland – especially the great Midwestern institutions founded at the turn of the last century, where all cultures from across the country. world converge. Equipped with a few KN95 masks and a Japanese-made compact car, this offender finally adapted to a road trip from Cleveland to Detroit – en route to four museums, connected in a three-hour curve around Lake Erie. Together they make a lovely Labor Day weekend excursion (although all four are closed on Mondays as usual), but each contains treasures from an entire globe.

For nearly a decade, I wanted to travel to Ohio to see the expansion and renovation project that affirmed this museum’s place as one of the nation’s most important artistic institutions. What ultimately led me to brave LaGuardia was a clever and surprising exhibition of French painting at the turn of the last century. “Private lives: home and family in the art of the NabisTakes us into the living rooms, bedrooms and winter gardens of Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Félix Vallotton and the real star of the series, Édouard Vuillard: four Parisians who gave domestic scenes the psychological intensity of the thriller. Vuillard’s dense and tense patterns, in particular – a bedspread cluttered with hundreds of colorful cob, a dress hatched like the bars of a prison – invite a reassessment of what an artist can do when he is left behind. ‘interior: good lesson for the plague year 2020, however one that I would have hoped was no longer needed in 2021 vaccinated.

For a museum of its size and importance, Cleveland offers an abundance of intimate encounters. In the dimly lit medieval galleries, I couldn’t break with four alabaster statuettes of mourning monks, sculpted at the beginning of the 15th century by Claus de Werve for the tomb of the Duke of Burgundy, whose pained faces come out of their hoods. Another monk naturalist, equally breathtaking: a statue of Japan from the Kamakura era, made from hinoki cypress and depicting a Zen master, with narrowed eyes, pursed lips, the image of enlightenment. It is located in the West Wing, which was designed by Rafael Viñoly and opened in 2013.

And the museum is home to one of America’s rarest works of art: the Apollo Sauroktonos, or “Cleveland Apollo,” a supple bronze god that the museum attributes to the Greek sculptor Praxiteles. (Greek bronzes of this scale are exceptionally rare, as most have been cast.) Known for years through later marble copies, the Apollo Bronze arrived in Cleveland in 2003; its attribution will be debated for generations, and its provenance, too, is more than a little cloudy. Rilke once looked at a statue of Apollo in the Louvre and concluded, “You have to change your life.” My own Apollonian experience was less thunderous – but 10 minutes or more alone with him in the museum’s old art galleries, finally gazing at his downcast face and the saw-cut curve of his right hip, had its own poetry.

Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland, (216) 421-7350, clevelandart.org, Admission fee.

Stanford or Smith, Williams or Northwestern: so many of this country’s most flourishing museums can be found in universities, and so many have passed the pandemic in limbo. University museums have been closed longer than almost any other art institution, mainly due to restrictions imposed by universities on the entry of foreigners onto campus.

The Oberlin Museum, less than an hour from Cleveland, has been closed to the public for 15 months – but as of this summer, foreigners like me can return to one of the nation’s most important educational museums. His collection of paintings includes a major baroque painting of Saint Sebastian dying and pierced with arrows by the baroque painter Hendrick ter Brugghen; the modern collection is rich from Monet and Mitchell, as well as Oberlin graduates like sculptor John Newman. Architecture is a highlight of the collection: a mixed Renaissance fantasy designed by Beaux-Arts architect Cass Gilbert (who designed many buildings in Oberlin), joined with a checkerboard extension by Robert Venturi.

The most extraordinary object on display is one of the smallest: a newly acquired portrait medallion, painted in 1635, of an Ethiopian traveler to the court of Savoy. The model is an Ethiopian pretender to the throne called Zaga Christ, and artist Giovanna Garzoni chose the curls of her hair and the details of her lace ruff in a miniature just two inches high. Even on its back side, the medallion testifies to Euro-African exchanges: it has signed its name in both Italian and Amharic.

Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 87 North Main Street, Oberlin, Ohio, (440) 775-8665, amam.oberlin.edu, Admission fee.

90 minutes west of Oberlin is a long-beloved museum in Buckeye State, the collection of which I have admired in books, loans, and websites, but whose riches must be seen to be floods. The Toledo Museum reflects the city’s glory days as the capital of glassmaking, and in and around its grand gallery is an anthology of European art history that seems to have only high marks . There are the muscular nudes by Luca Signorelli, one of the most careful anatomists of the Renaissance. The fresh beauty of Vigée Le Brun’s portrait a countess from the old regime, his nonchalance foreshadowing the coming revolution. by Manet late arrest portrait (from 1880) by the writer-politician Antonin Proust, holding a yellow leather glove made like a few daring goldenrod lines.

Art Nouveau is not neglected; in October, the museum will host the North American premiere of “Doppelgänger” by Canadian videographer Stan Douglas, which was a remarkable contribution from the Venice Biennale 2019. But the museum’s greatest contemporary appeal is architectural: its glass pavilion, a low-slung gazebo designed by Japanese architects Sanaa, which has housed since 2006 one of the largest glass collections in the world (as well as a glass factory). Its transparent curved walls, its serene dissolution of the interior and the exterior, make it a museum building worthy of a pilgrimage.

Toledo Art Museum, 2445 Monroe Street, Toledo, Ohio, (419) 255-8000, toledomuseum.org, Admission fee.

Since I turned to art professionally, the most shameful gap in my American museum career is here in the Motor City. I spent half my time here criticizing myself for delaying my first discovery of Bellini’s “Virgin and Child” where Marie and her son stand in front of a lustrous green curtain, or the stripping of Matisse 1916 interior he was the first to enter an American museum.

A Kongo nkisi n’kondi commander, his hips pushed forward, his body studded with nails, dominates an impressive African collection that integrates performance and masquerade to show the expressive cultures of the continent through the media. A more recent and surprising African acquisition: a mask by an artist from the Chewa people of Malawi, whose right jaw and painted sideburns confirm that it is none other than Elvis Presley.

Parked now at DIA is “Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020,” the first show on automotive design the museum has been set up since 1985, which includes a dozen cars intended for both the road and the experimental showcase. The strangest, and by far the coolest, is the 1987 Lamborghini Portofino, a sedan with scissor doors that attempted to bridge the gap between the racetrack and the suburban school race. It only exists in this unique prototype, and I’m dying to pilot it in more distant museums.

As for Diego Rivera’s murals of Detroit industry, which I had only seen as reproductions in the recent Whitney Museum of American Art’s recent “Vida Americana”, their marriage of the Ford assembly line with Aztec cosmology to the fullness of a cathedral. I looked in a corner of Rivera Court at a scene controversial in his time: a doctor, a nurse and an infant in a laboratory, their poses echoing scenes from the Holy Family. A horse, a cow and rams graze in front of the balloons and condensers. The boy has a crown of golden hair that resembles a halo, and he is participating in a breakthrough in human industry whose promise has not wavered. The baby Jesus is vaccinated.

Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, (313) 833-7900, dia.org; advance tickets required.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Find globe-worthy art treasures near you
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