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Cincinnati Museums Offer High-Profile Shows in 2011

By Steven Rosen · January 11th, 2011 · The Big Picture
The first part of this year is going to be a dynamic one for museum exhibits — so dynamic that you have to wonder if there will be enough patrons for all the high-profile shows.

The biggest show (probably) is primarily a history exhibit, but one with incredibly good timing. Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt, which comes to Cincinnati Museum Center on Feb. 17 and stays through Sept. 5, is the second stop on a tour that started at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute.

Put together by National Geographic and the for-profit Arts and Exhibitions International, with help from Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the European Institute for Underwater Archeology, it’s not hard to imagine the initial pitch on this one: “It’s King Tut meets Titanic.” (Arts and Exhibitions put together the current, world-touring Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs show.) The only real question was whether there was still public interest in Cleopatra. But Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff resolved that when her new biography of Egypt’s last queen became a best-seller. The exhibit comes here right on the crest of the book’s success.

One hopes Cleopatra-mania doesn’t eclipse Cincinnati Art Museum’s major winter/spring show, The Amazing American Circus Poster, running Feb. 26-July 10. It features 80 beautiful posters printed between 1878-1939 by a Cincinnati company, Strobridge Lithographing. Organized by the museum with Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art, this has been a long-in-the-works attempt by CAM to mix art with some history and popular culture in order to increase attendance.

Coming right after Wedded Perfection, a show that did the same thing smashingly well, The Amazing American Circus Poster comes with expectations.

At the same time, the art museum seems to be ramping up its contemporary-art programming with some surprise schedule additions. The Way We Are Now: Selections from the 21c Collection, opening Jan. 29 and continuing through May 15, is from the Louisville museum/hotel that’s opening a branch in downtown Cincinnati at the site of the Metropole. Its founders, Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, have avant-garde tastes and love multimedia and interactive art, so this show is a bold move by CAM to start partnering with them early.

But another surprise move by the museum is to give its second Cincinnati Art Award to a major art collector, Douglas Cramer, rather than an artist like first recipient Jim Dine. A Cincinnati native and Walnut Hills High School classmate of Dine, Cramer went on to become a top TV producer (Dynasty). In connection with the award, the museum will show from May 4-Aug. 21 a selection of the gifts it has received from Cramer by such artists as Sean Scully, Frank Stella and Elizabeth Murray. There will also be silkscreen portraits of Cramer by Andy Warhol (one hopes Pete Rose doesn’t get jealous).

Meanwhile, Contemporary Arts Center’s entry in the big-show sweepstakes is Keith Haring 1978-1982, which concentrates on rarely seen early work by the iconic New York street/pop artist, who died in 1990. It’s co-curated by CAC and Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna). This is the same exhibition slot devoted last year to the attendance-breaking Shepard Fairey show and there’s a huge following here for anything related to street art. So this show could be very, very big.

And never underestimate the power of the word “Impressionism” in a title to draw a crowd. Taft Museum of Art debuts American Impressionists from Cincinnati Collections on Jan. 28. It continues through April 25.

Follow CityBeat for reviews and features as these shows open.

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: srosen@citybeat.com



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