On November 11, from 9pm to midnight, after two years and $22 million of construction and renovation, the Cranbrook Art Museum will stage its Grand Reopening. The 1942 Eliel Saarinen-designed building has added a new 20,000 square-foot Collections Wing. This will allow the museum to display its full collection of nearly 6,000 works of design, textiles, ceramics and fine art from the Arts and Crafts Movement to the present. The original space has added a state-of-the-art climate-control system and other sophisticated museum technologies. For the following 11 days, Saturday, November 12 through Monday, the 21st, the museum will be open daily from 10am to 9pm. This will be the best one-hour drive you’ve made in a long time.
Cranbrook Academy of Art has been rightly described as “America’s Bauhaus.” As just about everyone who reads this column knows, the original Bauhaus emerged in Germany between 1919 and 1933, after which they were shut down by the Nazis. Think Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, who designed a gorgeous apartment complex flourishing in downtown Detroit to this day. Like Cranbrook, Bauhaus combined crafts and fine arts and was famous for its approach to design and teaching. Today, we can say without hesitation that there was no greater influence on world Mid-Century style than Cranbrook. Think Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia, the Saarinens. Cranbrook art and design is everywhere, so much so that we don’t always notice or appreciate it. That includes the new subway cars in New York City. Rain or shine, save time for a stroll around the 320 acre campus of sculpture, fountains, lakes and ponds, forest and architecture.
Opening on November 12 at the University of Michigan Museum of Art is “Face of Our Time,” an exhibition of more than 100 works by five photographers. The five – Jacob Aue Sobol, Jim Goldberg, Zanele Muholi, Daniel Schwartz and Richard Misrach – are part of what has been called the “Documentary Style” of photography. Their images comment on the world, capturing civil and political upheavals, transformations facing society and contemporary culture. Part beauty, part history.
Aue Sobol’s swirling, sculptural visions depict the hardships of life in the Arctic (burr-r-r). Mr. Goldberg portrays a series of narratives of the migration of illegal immigrants from Africa to Europe (you think the Mexicans have it rough!). Ms. Muholi commemorates and celebrates the plights of black lesbians in her native South Africa (you thought Prop 8 was bad). Daniel Schwartz captures a flowing through time on the Silk Road, a kind of Xanadu and Ozymandias meet Borat and post-communist artlessness. Richard Misrach’s photographs are from his recently published book, “Destroy This Memory.” They are informal but intensely personal pictures taken in New Orleans in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina debacle (remember that?). Through February 5, 2012.
While you’re there, check out “Mark di Suvero: Tabletops.” This American sculptor is best known for his monumental works made of industrial steel and salvaged materials that populate innumerable museum grounds, landscapes and urban environments around the world, kind of like Calder’s used to. Two of these behemoths are outside the new wing of the UMMA and unmistakable from State Street. Another is outside the Cranbrook Museum of Art (great curators think alike). “Tabletops” features 15 of di Suvero’s small pieces from the 1950’s to the present. They aren’t small versions of his giant works, but a genre all their own exploring form, balance, proportion and movement. The pieces are from numerous private collections and the artist’s own studio, and the show, organized by the UMMA, will be exhibited exclusively in Ann Arbor. Stay gold, di Suvero!