Monday, June 29, 2009

Event Diary: CMA East Wing Unveiling and Summer Solstice Party

The Cleveland Museum of Art unveiled the renovation of its east wing—the modern art wing—while celebrating the summer solstice with different pricing for events at 5 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m. Of those options, the 10 p.m. event was the one most suitable for my budget, and it ended up being the most appropriate for my interests. The musician playing at that time, Dan Deacon, was one I could get into, playing electronic/party music. At the 10 p.m. event, the older crowd was still perusing the gallery, but there were enough young people to give it a hip, relaxed vibe.
I think the most surprising thing about the event was the fact that when I arrived, parking was free and I had to wait in line, because apparently over 2,000 people showed up to this event. (Way to go Cleveland!) Not only the amount, but also the range of people surprised me—old women wearing scarves, old men wearing suit jackets, young people wearing black framed glasses and converse high tops, as well as some decked out young women in J.Crew dresses and young men in boat shoes and Brooks Brothers button downs.
Apparently, walking around the art museum at night, looking cultured, while wearing your summer’s best, and drinking a cocktail appeals to Clevelanders more than I expected it to.
I quickly found my cocktail—the only way to survive an event solo—and set out for the East Wing.

Instead of being directed to the East Wing, however, I was pointed outside where a fireworks show was about to start and where Dan Deacon was playing in the courtyard. I looked at the stage, but it was empty. I heard music coming from somewhere, and saw Dan Deacon equipped with analog drum machines and vintage electronics completely submersed in a crowd of people jumping up and down to his music. It was funky, somewhat nerdy, like a video game or techno, but surprising and fun. As we waited for the fireworks show, Deacon engaged the crowd in a chant to the sky, asking it not to rain. In a perfectly orchestrated moment, the rain held off, and as the fireworks started, Deacon launched into his next song. 

I joined the circle of jumping people and got pushed into the center of the crowd, but could not even manage to take a picture of Deacon as everyone around me was going crazy.
Outside, the white marble walls, subtle lighting, and people in cocktail attire holding drinks mixed with dancing hipsters made it look more like a rooftop party in Manhattan than an art museum in Cleveland, and it made me want to stay until the party’s end at 2 a.m. The east wing seemed a little less interesting at this point, but curiosity and a need for a refill on my drink brought me back into the museum.
As soon as I stepped into the east wing I noticed that the design and layout, done by Rafael Viñoly, had been updated with an interesting piece of art strategically placed after every corner that made you more and more intrigued by what was in the room to follow. Shiny new flooring and deep blue and starch white walls contrasted each other. It had all of the artists a modern art gallery promises—Warhol, Picasso, Mattise, Pollock, Monet—but also new galleries dedicated to Cleveland artists and photography. A theme could be found in each room, making it easy to tie certain periods and artists together. My heart skipped a beat as I saw several of my favorite paintings arranged in new and different ways. As promised, the gallery provided more room to display more of the museum’s holdings. The event and the renovation should be considered a huge success.

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