One of the gems of Cleveland’s University Circle area is the renowned Cleveland Museum of Art.
The Wade Park Historic District of Cleveland encompasses about 65 acres at the core of University Circle. Land donated to the city in the late 1800s by Jeptha Wade, a founder of Western Union Telegraph, included the Museum of Art’s site, as well as the Wade Lagoon that dramatically fronts the Museum’s southern façade, and the Wade Oval flanking the Museum on the north.
Upon that site, in 1916, the architectural firm of Hubbell & Benes created a classic Beaux-Arts composition in white marble. Before the south façade’s single Ionic portico entrance stands a copy of Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece ‘The Thinker’, damaged in 1970 by a bombing by The Weathermen. The original structure has a simple axial layout, with two large inner light courts ringed by galleries.
A modest and elegant glass-and-metal addition by the firm of Hays and Ruth was erected in 1958. In 1970, however, that addition was subsumed within the much more ambitious and visually dramatic Museum expansion, designed by Marcel Breuer & Hamilton P. Smith. Its horizontal striping of light and dark granite bands define a composition of rectangular solids that jut north toward Wade Oval to embrace arriving art lovers. Yet another 1982 addition, a modest wing designed by Dalton, van Dijk, Johnson & Partners, is concealed by grade differentials and landscaping.
By 2001, the Museum was once again experiencing growing pains. It enlisted the architectural firm of Rafael Viñoly Architects to design a major renovation and expansion. When completed in 2012, the newly expanded Museum will have grown by half, and will offer much greater gallery space, expanded parking, enlarged café and museum store, new restrooms and a new glass-roofed courtyard.
The Cleveland Museum of Art has long been ranked among the best in the world, and is one of the only major art museums to allow free public access to its permanent galleries. Those galleries house collections in 15 different departments, from Textiles & Islamic Art to American Painting & Sculpture, and from Art of the Ancient Americas and Oceania to Photography and Contemporary Art. The facility contains one of the nation’s best collections of Asian art. Among its more than 43,000 pieces, the Museum houses works by many of art’s greatest names: Picasso, van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Rubens, Gauguin, Monet, Warhol, Pollock, Goya, Dali and El Greco.
The Museum also maintains a steady scheduled of special exhibitions (with paid admissions), films, lectures, and musical and performing arts presentations. A short stroll from The Cleveland Museum of Art are The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Cleveland Botanical Gardens, and Severance Hall, home of the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra.