New CMA Exhibit Features Treasures from Museum’s Vaults

click to enlarge New CMA Exhibit Features Treasures from Museum’s Vaults
Jeff Niesel
When the pandemic upended international travel last year, it temporarily delayed Cleveland Museum of Art projects that had been in development for years, so the museum pivoted and drew up a new exhibit, Stories from Storage, based on items that are part of its permanent collection.

The exhibit, which just opened this week, features seldom-seen works of art carefully selected by each of the museum’s nearly two dozen curators, who each wrote about the theme they explored with the pieces they decided to put on exhibit. In total, the exhibit features an anthology of 20 short stories told by the museum’s director, chief curator, curators and director of academic affairs and associate curator of special projects.

Stories from Storage, which takes up several rooms in the museum’s Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall and Gallery and requires a separate admission, will be on display until May 16.

“This wonderful new exhibition offers a glimpse into our vault, making available works rarely, if ever, before seen by the public,” says William M. Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, in a statement. “In Stories from Storage, visitors will experience a range of curatorial approaches, expanding our visitors’ understanding of the museum’s collection by adding to, elucidating or even complicating the chronicle of art history we present in our permanent collection galleries.”

The museum has more than 61,000 objects in its permanent collection, but only about 4,000 are on view in the galleries.

Some of the exhibit's highlights include Kara Walker’s vibrant drawing The Republic of New Afrika at a Crossroads and a collection of modern landscape paintings. The exhibit also includes items that come from the Pacific Islands, eastern South America and Mexico as well as a collection of 15 photographs of tourist destinations.

Sanford R. Gifford’s Haverstraw Bay is displayed on an otherwise blank wall in an isolated setting to help reduce distraction. Textile artist Lenore Tawney’s 41 postcard collages that she mailed between 1969 and 1981 to her friend, art dealer, curator and critic Katharine Kuh, are on view at CMA for the first time since 1985.

One particularly appropriate exhibit displays artwork made at the time when the Black Death ravaged Europe.

There's even a collection of pieces that still need to be restored.

Tickets for the exhibit can be reserved online at, at the box office or by calling 216-421-7350.

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