Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cleveland Museum of Art: Rembrandt In America Preview Events (@ClevelandArt)

This week the Cleveland Museum of Art opens what may be the most anticipated exhibition in recent memory: Rembrandt in America. With this exhibition the traditional Members Preview Party seems to have been replaced with a series of more focused events.

Members Happy Hour
 Last night Rachel and I found ourselves at the Members' Happy Hour during the Museum's normal Friday evening operating hours and featuring DJ Reena Samaan with a cash bar and a diverse collection of attendees and the energy and buzz in the space was on par with that of the Summer Solstice.

Last night we did a quick survey of the exhibition and engaged in extensive socializing.

Tonight Rachel and I returned to the museum for the Supporting Circles Reception after-hours and the seeming successor in interest to the Members Reception and Preview Party -- an event attracting a distinctly older group and generally lower key gathering.

The event tonight began with welcoming remarks from David Franklin, the museum's gregarious director and the most captivating and compelling introduction to and overview of an exhibition I can recall presented by Jon Seydl, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture 1500-1800.

The exhibition covers the full span of Rembrandt's career spanning a universe of attributions -- randing from unquestionably Rembrandt (including a number of self portraits) to those originally attributed to Rembrandt where the true source -- and amount of Rembrandt's involvement, if any, is now in doubt.

While Rembrandt's work is visually gripping on its own with intriguing light and detail the exhibition presents works of questioned and unquestioned attribution in close proximity allowing the viewer to visually compare them and draw their own conclusions. In another gallery, paintings that are obviously the same subject -- one by the hand of Rembrandt, the other by a student -- lets the viewer truly understand the difference and mastery: One is softly lit but has crisp, almost life-like details while the other the focus is just a bit too soft -- almost if the camera's lens was a hair out of focus -- and the shapes are quite a bit  less photorealistic.

The exhibition also features an interactive exhibit with one the pieces in The Cleveland Museum of Art's collection that falls squarely into the questionable attribution category and attendees are invited to look at the art under the same conditions as the curators and conservators -- direct light, UV, XRay, Raking light and the like.

Though slightly irreverent, I found that great fun can be had asking and answering "What emotion is that facial expression embodying?"

The one question lingering is "why is the M in Rembrandt backwards and red?"

Rembrandt in America, now through May 16th at the Cleveland Museum of Art, members always see exhibitions free - otherwise $14/adults with student and children discounts. In addition to the ticketed special exhibition, a free companion in the form of Rembrandt Prints from the Morgan Library and Museum in the 1916 Building's Gallery 101


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