Director William Griswold wants Cleveland Museum of Art atrium filled with art, performance
Posted August 18, 2015 in Articles
Author: Steven Litt
William Griswold looks down through the big glass window in his conference room overlooking theCleveland Museum of Art's atrium and sees artistic and even architectural possibilities that have not yet been tapped.
Griswold, who marks his first anniversary Tuesday as the museum's 10th director since it opened in 1916, said in an interview on Monday that by the end of the coming year, he wants to begin experimenting in the atrium with short- and long-term installations of art and perhaps even architecture.
He said he could see the atrium as the setting for a Chinese Ming dynasty courtyard house, or perhaps a reassembled house by Frank Lloyd Wright.
He said he could envision performance-art spectacles, light installations, sculpture, even artwork suspended from the structural trusses that support the atrium's vast skylight.
William Griswold in the lobby of the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, which he headed immediately before becoming director of the Cleveland Museum of Art a year ago. In an interview Monday, Griswold cited a colored light installation by Spencer Finch in the Morgan's atrium as an example of what he'd like to attempt in the Cleveland museum's atrium.Lynn Ischay, The Plain Dealer
"I think about it every day," Griswold said in an extended interview in which he looked back over the past year and ahead to the museum's centennial in 2016 and beyond.
The 39,000-square-foot atrium is the centerpiece of the museum's eight-year, $320 million expansion and renovation, completed late in 2013 and designed by New York architect Rafael Vinoly.
Since the atrium opened in 2012, the museum has used it as a social mixing hub and as a cash cow earning revenue from rentals.
Often, however, the atrium functions simply as an architecturally impressive interior without as much life in it as Griswold would like to see.
The director said he thought that the space is big enough to be able to continue hosting events and earning revenue for the museum while also providing a dimension of artistic programming that so far, has been rare.
In 2013, under former director David Franklin, the museum hosted an exhibition of Ai Weiwei Chinese Zodiac sculptures.
Primarily, however, the atrium has been the setting of events such as the museum's popular monthly MIX gatherings, the annual Solstice party and other festivals and parties.
"I'm not predicting what we're going to do, but I think the possibilities are really great," Griswold said Monday. "What really matters, I think, is that there should be art that signals the core mission of the museum.
"And, there should be people in that space," he continued. "We want to enliven it to the degree we can at all hours. We've all seen it packed [for special events], but I think it would be wonderful to see it always packed."