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Insider’s Tour of the Cleveland Museum of Art

Travel | By Cullen Fischel | Updated March 1, 2024


Cullen Fischel of Cleveland's guide to Cleveland Museum of Art

If you love art, or even if you just appreciate beautiful and thought-provoking things, the Cleveland Museum of Art is an absolute must-visit in my home state of Ohio.


I've spent countless hours exploring its galleries, and I always find something new to fascinate me. This world-class museum is a treasure trove of artistic wonders, and I'm excited to give you an insider's look at what makes it so special.


Key Takeaways


  • The Cleveland Museum of Art boasts a massive collection that takes you on a journey through time and around the world.

  • You'll find engaging temporary exhibitions alongside the museum's renowned permanent collection.

  • The museum offers tons of enriching programs and events that go beyond merely looking at art.


Guide to the Cleveland Museum of Art Map of Collections and Exhibits


The Cleveland Museum of Art prides itself on a collection that spans continents and centuries. You'll find breathtaking European paintings, ancient Egyptian artifacts, delicate Asian sculptures, and so much more. It's a feast for the eyes!


Some of the must-see masterpieces include works by Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and the stunning armor collection. It's worth checking out a post about Cleveland's cultural gems and historic sites, as the museum ties beautifully into the city's rich history.


Level Two


East Galleries


  • 224a, 229 Contemporary: Explore the cutting-edge world of contemporary art, featuring diverse and thought-provoking works.

  • 224b Video Project Room: Discover experimental video installations and innovative works in this specialized space for media art.

  • 218–221, 223, 225–226 Modern: Journey through the evolution of European art, from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. View works by artists like Matisse, Cézanne, and other influential modernists.

  • 222 Impressionism: Immerse yourself in the light-filled masterpieces of the Impressionist movement. See iconic works by Monet, Renoir, Degas, and more.

  • 227 Abstract Expressionism: Explore the power and emotion of large-scale Abstract Expressionist works by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

  • 228 Cleveland Gallery: Celebrate the Cleveland connection with artists and artwork tied to the city and the region.

  • 230 Photography: Explore the fascinating world of photography, with rotating exhibitions that showcase various periods and mediums of the art form.


South Galleries


  • 200 Rotunda: This grand space showcases rotating installations and exhibitions, offering a dynamic welcome to the galleries.

  • 201-202 Neoclassical: Step back in time to discover art and sculpture influenced by the rediscovery of classical Greece and Rome.

  • 203 British: Experience masterpieces of British art, from grand portraits to landscape paintings.

  • 204-208 American: Immerse yourself in the development of American art, from Colonial times to the early 20th century. View works by renowned artists like John Singleton Copley and Winslow Homer.

  • 209 Tiffany: Be dazzled by the intricate stained glass and decorative objects created by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studio.

  • 210 Armor Court: Admire one of the world's finest collections of European and Japanese armor and weaponry.

  • 211 Fabergé Encounter the exquisite jeweled objects and decorative arts created by the famed House of Fabergé.

  • 212, 214–215, 217 Baroque: Explore the dramatic and detailed style of Baroque art, with Italian and Spanish works leading the way.

  • 213 Dutch: Discover the rich artistic traditions of the Netherlands, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.

  • 216 Late Baroque: Experience the transition from the ornate Baroque style to the lighter Rococo in 18th-century European art.

  • 301 Collector's Cabinet: This gallery simulates a historical collector's cabinet, showcasing a fascinating mix of objects and their display.


North Galleries


  • 231 Native North American: Explore the diverse artistic traditions of Native American cultures through various objects and artworks.

  • 232-233 Ancient American: Discover captivating art and artifacts from ancient civilizations of Central and South America.

  • 234 Textiles: Dive into the vast world of textiles with examples from across the globe, showcasing techniques and artistry from different cultures.

  • 235-236 Japanese and Korean: Explore the serene beauty of Japanese and Korean art, including paintings, ceramics, and sculptures.

  • 237 Himalayan: Discover the intricate art and religious objects from Tibet, Nepal, and surrounding regions.


West Galleries


  • 238-241 Chinese: Journey through the vast artistic history of China, with sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and decorative arts.

  • 242-244 Indian and Southeast Asian: Explore sculptures, textiles, and paintings from India, Thailand, Cambodia, and other Southeast Asian cultures.


South Galleries


  • 100 1916 Lobby: This grand space often features special installations or large-scale works.

  • 101 Prints and Drawings: Discover a rotating selection of drawings, prints, and other works on paper, offering a deeper look into various artistic techniques and styles.


  • 102–103 Ancient Near Eastern, Greek, and Roman: Journey back millennia to explore the art and artifacts of ancient civilizations from the Mediterranean and Near East.

  • 104–105 Early Christian and Byzantine: Discover the rich artistic heritage of the early Christian world and the Byzantine Empire.

  • 106 Medieval: Explore the art of the European Middle Ages, including illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, and religious objects.

  • 107 Ancient Egyptian: Immerse yourself in the captivating world of ancient Egypt, with sculptures, mummies, and objects of daily life.

  • 108 African: Discover the diverse artistic traditions of sub-Saharan Africa, featuring sculptures, masks, and objects with cultural and ritual significance.

  • 109–111 Late Medieval: Witness the transition from the medieval period to the Renaissance, with evolving artistic styles and subject matter.

  • 112 Northern Renaissance: Discover the detailed realism and symbolism of paintings and sculptures from Germany, the Netherlands, and other Northern European regions.

  • 113 French Tapestries and Illuminated Manuscripts: Be awed by the intricate beauty of French tapestries and illuminated books from various periods.

  • 114 German Painting and French Decorative Art: Explore the interplay of art from these two neighboring regions, highlighting both similarities and unique features.

  • 115 Rotating Textiles and Manuscripts: This gallery offers a changing selection of delicate textiles, manuscripts, and other works often not displayed due to light sensitivity.

  • 116 Islamic: Delve into the artistic traditions of the Islamic world, including ceramics, metalwork, and illuminated manuscripts.

  • 117 Early Italian Renaissance: Explore the dawn of the Renaissance with masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from Italy.

  • 118 Italian Renaissance: Witness the flourishing of the Renaissance with works by renowned Italian artists in various mediums.


Lower Level


  • 000 Education Lobby: This space welcomes visitors to the educational resources and programs offered by the museum.

  • 001 Exhibition Lobby: Here, larger special exhibitions are often showcased, offering visitors a chance to explore specific themes or artists in depth.


Temporary Exhibitions


Beyond the incredible permanent collection, the museum always has exciting temporary exhibitions on display. These showcase specific artists, movements, or themes, providing a deeper dive into different facets of art history.


During my last visit, there was a mesmerizing exhibit on Japanese woodblock prints. Check their website for the latest offerings and see if there are any special events happening while you're in town!


Beyond the Art: Programs and Events


The Cleveland Museum of Art isn't just about the amazing things on display – it's about connecting with art. They offer a ton of educational programs like lectures, workshops, and even activities for kids and families.


Sometimes, there are film screenings, concerts, or other performances that link to the current exhibitions. You'll always find something to spark your curiosity!


The Museum Experience


Let's be honest, wandering through art galleries can be a workout! Luckily, there are great dining options on-site, so you can refuel and keep exploring. I love grabbing a coffee and a pastry from the cafe. The museum store is also fantastic if you're looking for a unique souvenir or gift.


Exploring Cleveland and the Arts Scene


The Cleveland Museum of Art is a fantastic anchor point, but don't miss out on the vibrant arts scene that surrounds it! Cleveland is bursting with creativity, from independent galleries to street art.


Check out my post about the Cleveland arts scene for inspiration. Plus, the museum is in University Circle, home to other fascinating institutions, making it a worthwhile cultural destination within Ohio.


Cullen Fischel’s Tips for the Best Experience


  • Plan your visit in advance: Check the museum website for current hours, admission fees, and any special programs that interest you.

  • Opt for a guided tour: It's a wonderful way to get insights you might miss on your own.

  • Don't try to see everything: Focus on specific galleries or exhibitions that pique your interest.

  • Don't forget the museum store: It's full of unique treasures!

  • Fuel up: Take advantage of the on-site dining options to keep your energy up.

The Ohio Traveler Explains


Is the Cleveland Museum of Art free?

General admission to the Cleveland Museum of Art is always free! This makes it an accessible and welcoming attraction for everyone. However, certain special exhibitions might have a separate ticket fee.


How do I get to the Cleveland Museum of Art?

The museum is easily accessible by car or public transportation. There's a parking garage nearby, and several bus lines stop within walking distance. Find all the directions on the museum's website.


Are there accessibility options at the museum?

Absolutely! The Cleveland Museum of Art strives to be inclusive. They offer wheelchairs, audio guides, large-print materials, and several accessibility-focused programs. Find more details on their website.

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