More than 4,000 artworks from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collection are on view in the galleries. However, many works remain in storage for various reasons: some are light sensitive, some have condition issues, some have contested attributions, or others simply do not fit into the narratives or finite spaces of the galleries. Stories from Storage reveals approximately 300 works of art from storage. Visitors will encounter 19 stories—told by the museum’s 17 curators, as well as the director and the chief curator—that highlight works seldom on view, spanning the museum’s encyclopedic collection, from the ancient world to today. The unifying thread is the glimpse into storage that each story provides.
The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 inspired a range of curatorial responses. The curator of medieval art explores religious art made during the Black Death, the most fatal recorded pandemic. Several curators responded to the quarantine by selecting works of art that invite self-reflection and meditation. The curator of Korean art pairs two objects from the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) with a work by contemporary Korean artist Kim Beom, while the curator of American painting and sculpture invites visitors to linger with a 19th-century tranquil seascape by Sanford R. Gifford depicting the Hudson River. In a different response to the quarantine, the curator of photography provides views of distant locales that invite visitors to partake in imaginary journeys. Focusing on the solitude of quarantine, the associate curator of contemporary art examines urban isolation through works that reflect the themes of exclusion and alienation.
Other curators focus on artworks that provide narratives that are untold in the galleries. In a display evoking a domestic interior, the curator of Chinese art illuminates the unique features of Chinese furniture, while the curator of African art celebrates a selection of textiles from across Africa made between 500 and 1993. The curator of Pre-Columbian and Native American art showcases notable examples from the museum’s small Oceanic collection, a group of Saltillo serapes (a shawl or blanket worn as a cloak in Latin America), and ceramic figurines from several ancient Mexican cultures.
Questions of connoisseurship are explored in several displays, including one wherein the curator of Greek and Roman art examines objects from the ancient Mediterranean world, in which one culture borrowed from another, prompting questions and confusion among modern scholars. The associate curator of European art from 1500 to 1800 has selected several paintings and a sculpture that investigate attribution and conservation.
Some artworks will be on view for the first time at the museum: the curator of prints and drawings shares a series of collaged postcards from the 1970s made by American fiber artist Lenore Tawney; and the curator of contemporary art juxtaposes a monumental installation by contemporary American artist Sarah Sze with a work by Belgian conceptual artist Marcel Broodthaers from the 1970s, which includes projections of a naval painting from the 1800s.