Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1957-68 (@ClevelandArt)

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to everyone! I'm staying in Cleveland this year and though it doesn't look like we're in for a White Christmas thus year, the performing arts seem to have pulled up their collective covers for a well-earned respite. I figured I'd take this opportunity, then, to continue my series looking back at The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, a rather large cache of back issues of which I was fortunate to come into several months ago and have been slowly working my way through. The rest of the series, including one from before the Museum's 1916 building had even opened, can be found here.

March 1957. Forty-Fourth Year. Number Three. This issue should--chronologically, at least--have been included in my last post but somehow escaped my hands. In the rest of the world, Standard and Poor's published the first of the now ubiquitous S&P 500 and the Treaty of Rome is signed forming the European Economic Community a major step to what is today's European Union. More amazing, however, is the story that lies under the heading A Missing Fragment Recovered:

"One of the finest objects in the Museum's collection of the Arts of the Americas is the seated figure of a man, Olmec culture, given by Mrs. R. Henry Norweb in 1939. The statute is damaged, the head, the left arm and the left knee are missing but despite these mutilations, it surprises with its classical form its resilience and viral intensity.
"The brilliant visual memory of a friend of the Museum has recently made it possible to restore one of the missing parts of this statute; the left hand and knee. A letter supplies the details of the story, 'When we were in Mexico, we went one evening to the more than modest home of an Indian woman in Inguala who works in the fields at harvest time [...] She had nothing at all of interest ... but as the two men were leaving the son brought out another box of junk, My husband recognized it as probably the missing piece from that figure in the Cleveland Museum. I thought he was mad however, the master's eye was certainly true' "

The odds, to me, of fragments a piece originally sculpted somewhere between 1200 and 300 BC separated by thousands of miles were reunited (after the first fragment had been in the Museum's collection for 18 years) on the strength of chance and visual recollection is stunning (the piece, with Accession Number 1951.179, can be found in the Museum's collection online)

Membership stands at 6,834

September 1957. Forty-Fourth Year . Number Seven. While September of 1957 may be better known in history for the "Little Rock Crisis" of the American Civil Rights Movement   The cover of this issue features a picture of the Northwest-Corner of the "New Wing" -- representing the first capital expansion of the Museum. While the "1958 Building" was demolished as part of the 2005-13 renovation and expansion (and it seems that some of the "damage" to the 1916 building's facade as part of that expansion is still being undone) it blazed the trail in several respects for the current expansion including the complete closure of the museum for a period of time and the and, perhaps most importantly, court-granted permission to use endowment funds to construction.

January 1968. Volume LV. Number 1. There's a ten-year gap in my cache of bulletins and at some point during this time the Bulletin has undergone a massive redesign including color covers and a larger size -- roughly 7"x8.5" instead of 5.5"x8.5" -- a trend that has continued with the bulletin's descendant, today's Members Magazine is a full 8.5"x11". This increase in mass is not wasted: The first entry in this Bulletin spans 17 full pages, more than the entire length of most prior bulletins. Mrs. Albert M. Rankin has joined the Board of Directors -- and she continues to be an active supporter of Cleveland arts to this day.

February 1968. Volume LV. Number 2.

April 1968. Volume LV. Number 4. Though Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, both neighbors to the Cleveland Museum of Art voted to federate in 1967, this issue ends by announcing "The Trustees and the Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art wish to join the University Circle community in taking formal notice of the presidential installation of Robert Morse and the inaugural year of Case Western Reserve University [...] The Museum has traditionally enjoyed a close relationship with the academic community of Cleveland and this relationship has now been made more intimate and productive by the new joint program in the history and criticism of art announced recently.

June 1968. Volume LV. Number 6. The inside front cover contains an artists rendering of the "Proposed Educational Wing" -- today's North Wing and main entrance -- although alterations have been made over the years, the image presented here is still very recognizable. The letter, signed by Emery May Norweb, President and Sherman E. Lee, Director -- is too lengthy to quote here -- but is filled with resonant echos of the current construction project "At the same time we also hope the prospect of things to come will enlist their material support; the physical discomfort of new construction is as nothing compared to the ensuing financial distress."

The annual report continues with reports that the Library's collection totals 59,925 volumes: Today, based on some reports (or rather, a somewhat recent library job posting) the collection exceeds more than 456,000 cataloged volumes and 500,000 digitized slides making it one of the largest art libraries in the United States.

And that seems like a fine place to stop this installment.

Happy Holidays!


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