Pre-Columbian, Korean and Japanese treasures on view again in Cleveland Museum of Art's north wing

Refurbished and expanded galleries open to public

CLEVELAND - It has been a long and occasionally, for visitors, frustrating time, as the Cleveland Museum of Art completes its ambitious expansion project.

Last fall, the milestone opening of the light-filled atrium made it possible to finally see the way this effort will take an already world-class museum to new heights.

The newly-opened north wing is flanked on either side by the new east wing, which includes the contemporary, modern and impressionist collections, and the west wing, scheduled to open in December 2013.

Inside the north wing, treasures hidden from view for eight long years are now returned to stunning view. The galleries of the north wing finally give a permanent home to Cleveland's impressive collection of textiles. The current exhibit focuses on Islamic textiles, and the museum's collection of these is known as the finest in North America.

CMA Director David Franklin said these textiles are "splendid objects of great rarity and great quality. Because of the light sensitivity, they're not seen very often." Textiles are rotated out of the galleries, and stored out of the light for a period of time before they can be returned. So this is your chance to see these extraordinary Islamic pieces, in what amounts to a special exhibition on its own.

Each gallery has its own mood. The gallery of native American and pre-Columbian art sets off the textural objects in stone, ceramics, shell, gold and fibers. The Korean and Japanese collections each have a gallery, with an interconnecting space between them. That gallery combines works from both countries that fall in an artistic tradition around the theme of Buddhism.

Franklin observes the mood in that gallery shifts to one "more meditative, more a sense of peace and calm. It changes your mood and that's something else we try to do here; have a variety of experiences with colors, with the way it's displayed, even the arrangement of the art itself."

Plan to spend a few moments in front of the towering Yakushi-Nyorai Buddha, over six feet in height, gilt glimmering from its surface. You will feel the peace emanating from it.

And as always, admission to the Cleveland Museum of Art is free. It is the biggest bargain in town.

For more information on all of the museum's programs, visit their website.

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