ART, CONTEMPORARY   Contemporary art is a term used for art produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century.  It is also referred to as the art of today or at times, modern art. Contemporary artists work in a world that is influenced globally, culturally diverse, and constantly technologically advancing.  Contemporary art comes in various forms and is often a complex mix of materials, techniques, ideas, and subjects that continues the boundary problem that was already well underway in the 20th century.  The lack of a standard, guiding concept, philosophy, or “-ism” distinguishes complex and multicultural contemporary art as a whole.  Contemporary art is part of a dialogue that involves broader contextual frameworks such as family, community, nationality, and personal and cultural identity.

Various institutions, in or around Cleveland, Ohio, support modern art. One is the Museum of Contemporary Art, or moCa, Cleveland.  In 1968 Marjorie Talalay, Nina Sundell, and Agnes Gund founded moCa Cleveland as The New Gallery to exhibit significant developments in modern art.  By showcasing works by new, soon-to-be-leading artists to Cleveland, such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Cindy Sherman, to audiences in Cleveland for the first time, moCa immediately attracted attention.  The institution today continues the tradition of bringing compelling art to Cleveland. The New Gallery became a non-profit gallery in 1974, and in 1984 it changed its name to the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, and at the time, it was the only museum dedicated to contemporary art in Northeast Ohio.  In 2002, the name of the museum was changed to the MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART ( moCa) Cleveland to honor its rich heritage and recognize its influence on the art scene of Northeast Ohio.  moCa announced plans for relocation in 2006 and broke ground for its new home in 2011.

 moCa’s (fully funded) $27.2 million building became the anchor for UNIVERSITY CIRCLE’s new Uptown district, a vibrant urban area with shops, restaurants, housing, and cultural spaces, in the fall of 2012. Referred to as “a gem” in Cleveland, the building is a stunning, creative, hexagonal space designed to meet the needs to increase exhibits and programs, and build new audiences.  It is located in an emerging cosmopolitan community between colleges, medical institutions, cultural centers and is located near many Cleveland schools.  The gem-like building was the first Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA) built structure in the United States. An instant icon for the revitalization and growth of Cleveland, the building, was widely featured, including in the New York Times , Fodor’s , and Architectural Digest as a symbol of the city’s renaissance. Moussavi’s concept demonstrates that the expansion of a museum does not have to be large in size in order to be ambitious in all respects.  Designed for both ecological and fiscal sustainability, it is technologically innovative, visually impressive and highly functional at the same time. The four-story structure of almost 34,000 square feet, has the appearance of a geometric shape that rises from a six-sided base to a four-sided edge, creating eight triangles and trapezoids.  The exterior of the building is covered with reflective black stainless steel panels and is heated and cooled by geothermal wells.  The Museum offers open spaces and opportunities to interact with modern artists’ works from all over the world.  The building masterfully accommodates wide-ranging encounters with contemporary art ranging from personal reflection to family art-making and to late-night mixing. moCa has not only provided a venue for modern art but also provided a space for the community, furthering the engagement and education surrounding contemporary art.

In addition to moCa, the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART has an impressive contemporary collection, that spans from 1961 to the present and continues to expand and reflect the global evolution of contemporary art.  In the last few years, the department has changed its policy to collecting more broadly in a way that reflects the entire collection of the museum, while acknowledging the rapidly evolving nature of contemporary art as artists explore new forms and mediums.  The department is also working to support under-recognized artists and provide a more inclusive, global view of art created in the second half of the 20th century and beyond.  The collection includes works by pioneering artists from the 1960s, including Ellsworth Kelly’s Red Blue (1962), Agnes Martin’s The City (1966), Mark Rothko’s No. 2 (Red Maroons) (1962), and Andy Warhol’s seminal and monumental Marilynx 100 (1962), as well as sculptural works by Richard Serra, Lee Bontecou, Tony Smith, and Donald Judd.  There are also strong holdings of artworks from the 1970s through the 1990s reflecting modern life’s complexities and diversity, including works by Alice Neel, Anselm Kiefer, Wadsworth Jarrell, Robert Gober, Louise Bourgeois, Martin Wong, and Julia Wachtel. Recent acquisitions of key works by artists including Rachel Harrison, Anicka Yi, Jim Hodges, Jordan Wolfson, Gabriel Orozco, Katharina Fritsch, Kara Walker, and Albert Oehlen reflect 21st-century art.

ARTneo is another artist group in NorthEast Ohio, helping expand modern art. Formerly the CLEVELAND ARTISTS FOUNDATION (CAF), ARTneo was founded in 1984 by Cleveland-based artists, patrons, and collectors who recognized the need to support a program to conserve, research, collect and display the most important visual arts in the Northeast of Ohio.  A collection of over 3,000 paintings, prints, ceramics, and sculpture is at the center of ARTneo’s project.  The mission of the organization, as the Cleveland Artist Foundation, has traditionally centered on a group of artists known as the “Cleveland School,” which was active from 1900-1950. ARTneo extended its historical scope over the past twenty-five years, to include the contributions of artists who have been involved before and since the “Cleveland School.” It is currently focused on the accomplishments of the most important artists in Northeast Ohio, whose production period spans the past fifty years.  As a result of this expanded scope, ARTneo has become Northeast Ohio’s leading center for the collection and recognition of regional art, both because of its major collection initiative and its dedication to innovative exhibition scheduling and educational outreach.  As of 2020, it was the only museum that purchased regional art exclusively but did not charge an admission fee.  The museum, located at the West 78th Street Studios in the city’s Gordon Square district, is supported by cash and in-kind donations from numerous individuals, foundations, companies, and government funding, membership, and fundraisers.

While modern art has not always been received well, due to changing perspectives on what constitutes an art piece, the acceptance of non-traditional art in museums has increased.  Various institutions throughout Cleveland and Northeast Ohio are working towards a common goal of expanding modern art collections and providing spaces for the community to gather and enjoy the artwork. The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and ARTneo are examples of these organizations working towards this common goal.  Hopefully, in the next few years,  the collecting, display and appreciation of modern Art in Cleveland will continue to grow.

 Morgan McCommon

See Also:  ART


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