Photo credit: Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903). Breton Girls Dancing, Pont-Aven, 1888. Oil on canvas; 73 x 92.7cm. National gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon 1983.1.19. Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington
The Midwest may be “Ground Zero” for the economic downturn, where recession is depression writ especially cruel. However, a silver lining remains in the region’s art institutions. These struggle valiantly to thrive despite gloom and doom. Granted some ongoing activity began in better times. However, this doesn’t lessen the inspirational uplift provided for a section of the country much in need of it.
Where to find that silver lining:
The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs
Now at the Milwaukee Art Museum, this major retrospective runs through August. Rohlfs was an early Arts and Crafts pioneer. He strongly influenced Stickley, Greene and Greene, and Wright. The Milwaukee also boasts a new wing designed by celebrated architect Santiago Calatrava.
Charles Rohlfs images courtesy of the Milwaukee Art Museum
Outside the Ordinary: Contemporary Art in Glass, Wood, and Ceramics
At the Cincinnati Art Museum through September. Featuring glass, wood, and ceramics from the collection of locals Nancy and David Wolf, this exhibit should place the museum on the international map as a focal point for functional art.
Photo credit: Jay Musler, Cityscape, 1981, The Nancy and David Wolf Collection, L24.2008:45
Cleveland Museum of Art
The new 140,000-square-foot East Wing opens this summer, part of a $200 million expansion program. A Gauguin blockbuster is set for October. The museum continues to welcome 500,000 visitors annually.
Grand Rapids Art Museum
The new GRAM was forced to cancel a large Saarinen retrospective scheduled this summer. (Too expensive to mount.) The museum, which opened last year as a case study in architectural sustainability, is countering with Father and Son: Eliel and Eero Saarinen. Smaller, more focused, the unique exhibit is still sure to be a crowd pleaser.
These are not simply “pass-throughs”. All are organized by the museums themselves. Most will include catalogs with online material for those who can’t make the show.
Two additional big-ticket items:
The Art Institute of Chicago’s recently-opened 264,000 square-foot Modern Wing designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano.
The $45 million Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State in East Lansing. Design is by Zaha Hadid, another Pritzker winner. Groundbreaking has been pushed out from this year until next with opening on track for 2012.
All evidence that when conditions are harsh, art and design become an even more important force to encourage, stimulate, support and inspire, challenging the mundane, particularly, it seems, where the need is great.
By Bill Robinson