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Cranbrook Museum of Art Re-Opens

Kate Clark’s "Ceremony" at the Cranbrook (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MICHIGAN — In the middle of the lush suburban academic oasis of the 319-acre Cranbrook educational community sits the Cranbrook Museum of Art. The art museum is surrounded by the Cranbrook Schools (private P-K—12), the Cranbrook Academy of Arts (graduate school), the Cranbrook Institute of Science and the Cranbrook House and Gardens — it is a community that inspires the highest scholarship in the arts and sciences.

In line with its edifying surroundings, the Cranbrook Museum of Art re-opened last Friday November 11 after a two-year $22 million expansion and renovation with an encyclopedic review of its vast collection through a thought-provoking exhibit titled, No Object is an Island: New Dialogues with the Cranbrook Collection. The title is a head nod to the 16th C. metaphysical poet John Donne (no man is an island) — a poet that demands deep study to appreciate.

This head nod does not foreshadow an academic exercise where the director and curators create a show that is only accessible to a few highly educated art historians. Rather, they did all the deep thinking to present artists juxtaposed in a way that engages art experts and art novices alike. The exhibit and the improved space offer a fun, intellectually stimulating, and extensive lesson in art’s ability to rouse the spirit.   In this exhibit, the Museum invited 50 contemporary artists to display their work in response to a piece in the Museum’s permanent collection.  So when you walk in you see one of Nick Cage’s beautiful sound suits juxtaposed against a May Morris tapestry, or one of Tony Mattelli’s hyperrealist sculptures hunting one of Kate Clark’s striking taxidermy pieces.

While the Museum inspires visitors, it is also a tool for the Cranbrook Academy of Art.  A little background: Cranbrook Academy of Art is often described as “America’s Bauhaus,” for its impact on the US’s art, architecture and design. For example, if you are sitting on an Eames office chair or riding in a new subway car in New York City, you are sitting on the work of a graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art. It is a highly selective school (only 70 students a year) where students are taught by leaders in contemporary art (the School’s artists-in-residence and faculty show their work at the MoMA, the DIA, the Venice Biennale, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, among other eminent venues). And now the Museum’s entire collection will be available to the students through the addition of a 20,000-square-foot Collections Wing. The pieces are not stored and hidden, but rather are in a conservation environment that allows students and visitors to interact with the pieces and for the School to conduct lectures within the Collections Wing.

For its first 11 days (11/11/11 through 11/21/11), the Museum is open daily for 11 hours starting at 10 am, and it offers an 11-day membership for $11. Below are my pictures from the grand re-opening.

Views from the main gallery.
Various gallery shots, including the new collection space on right.
A view of the lower gallery.

Known for its collection of design, craft, architecture and art, the Cranbrook Museum of Art continues to ensure it is a relevant voice in contemporary art. As an aside, we should mention that one of the jewels of the Museum’s collection is the home of Eliel Saarinen, which is an art deco masterpiece. The first president of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the home features his designs, textiles by his wife (who was the first head of the Academy’s weaving department) and early furniture designs by his son, Eero.

The Cranbrook Museum of Art is located at 39221 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

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