@TuesdayPause | #Go Discover post by Kristin. Early thirteenth-century Khmer culture comes to Cleveland as the National Museum of Cambodia shares an Angkorian treasure with the Cleveland Museum of Art. This means visitors to CMA’s exhibition, Beyond Angkor: Cambodian Sculpture from Banteay Chhmar, will discover they’re amongst a global privileged few.
Why is that? Because the centerpiece of the exhibit, a rare find from the late Khmer period, has never been displayed before outside of Cambodia!
That is…until now.
International Agreement Links Cambodia and Cleveland Museums, Brings Wall Remnant to U.S. Audience
The Banteay Chhmar exhibition in Cleveland was made possible three years ago when the National Museum of Cambodia, owner of the recovered stone wall carving, entered an agreement with the Cleveland Museum of Art. A CMA gallery placard credits this May 2015 agreement for the unprecedented loan, and described its goal “to enhance the cultural cooperation and exchange for the mutual benefit of both nations.”
However, I found the story recounted by the docent that led our tour much more complete and interesting. She shared that the May 2015 agreement arose after the Cleveland Museum of Art returned a “monkey statue” to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Because my notes—yes, I took notes—were a bit thin on this point, I researched the topic further. As a result, I learned that the May 2015 agreement arose after the CMA “voluntarily returned a 10th-century Cambodian stone sculpture of Hanuman to the Kingdom of Cambodia.” For those, like me, who don’t know—Hanuman is a Hindu Monkey God.
According to the docent, at some point CMA discovered that this piece, in their permanent collection, had been art trafficked somewhere along the way. Upon learning this fact, the Cleveland Museum of Art opted to return the statue to its rightful owner—Cambodia. Thus, the stage was set for ongoing cooperation.
Now that’s interesting! And, I would have missed this intriguing detail had I wandered through the gallery on my own. Indeed, this is why I encourage you to check the schedule and join one of the Daily Guided Tours at the CMA.
Cleveland Museum of Art Daily Tours
Many may not realize that Cleveland Museum of Art offers daily, docent-led, tours. I didn’t. These free public tours leave from the museum atrium Tuesday through Sunday at 1:00 pm and last 45 minutes to one hour.
If you join a tour, expect an interaction rather than a one-way presentation. The docent won’t just talk at you. Rather he or she will engage with you as you are guided through the museum’s galleries. Questions are welcomed, both during the tour, or at its conclusion. In fact, your guide will direct questions to you, the audience, to further encourage engagement.
Why Join a Docent Tour?
The exhibits/topics explored in the Daily Tour vary throughout the week and month, so it’s worth it to check the schedule before your visit. While some titles may be of more interest to you than others, consider listening in regardless. You just may discover something particularly interesting…as I did.
At the very least, you will learn more from the story-telling docents than you will by just meandering through the exhibits on your own. And if you’re like me, this will increase your overall enjoyment.
I could try to share a fact or two that I picked up from my visit, or point out the meaning behind the ten-armed Lokeshvara depicted in the bas-relief. I could also offer a summary of the history surrounding its construction or a glimpse into Cambodian life in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.
But, in any endeavor to do so, I would be way out of my league! While I did indeed take notes on the tour, I’m neither an art historian nor an expert on Cambodia’s Angkorian period (800s-1400s). And this would become instantly evident with any attempt I might make to share any detailed information with you.
So I’ll leave that to the experienced docents at the Cleveland Museum of Art! But, I would like to highlight one other tidbit, pointed out by our docent, that I hadn’t known. The museum provides booklets for select exhibits. So any time your interest is peaked, looked for the free museum publications that offer in-depth discussions. You’ll find them in a display case close to the main feature. Take them home with you and discover more at your leisure.
Not Just For Art or History Buffs
You say you’re not an art or history buff? Here’s the good news…you don’t have to be.
I’m neither an expert in art nor in history, and you don’t have to be one either in order to enjoy seeing this beautifully sculpted enclosure wall of Banteay Chhmar. If Angkor Watt—the larger and better-known Khmer temple complex—intrigues you, then the Banteay Chhmar bas-relief should be on your #GoDiscover list.
Remember, Khmer culture has travelled half way around the globe…from Cambodia to CLEVELAND…in the form of a stone relief wall. It has come to share its history and stories with us. But it’s only here for a brief time. So make it a point to visit before the wall comes down on March 25, 2018.
Finally, be sure to pause a moment to enjoy the other pieces from CMA’s permanent collection that have been incorporated with the Beyond Angkor exhibition.
Other Rotating Exhibits to Visit Before They Come to an End at Cleveland Museum of Art
You may have noticed that I am once again writing about the Cleveland Museum of Art. That’s because there’s more to do in one CMA visit than I can share in a single article.
At least, that was the case with my most recent jaunt. I wanted to be sure to share this Cambodian gem with you as well, so I’ve piggy-backed two posts about the Cleveland Museum of Art!
Plus, I’ve heard that repetition reinforces a point.
That point? Go check out the museum for yourself! : )
Last time I posted about the #Rodin100 celebration exhibition—now thru May 13, 2018 at CMA. If you missed my piece on Rodin’s The Thinker, hop on over to read it now. You may discover that there is more behind the famous pensive pose than you thought.
What to Know Before You Go
Location: 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, Ohio (in University Circle)
Hours: Tue/Thu/Sat/Sun 10am–5pm | Wed/Fri 10am–9pm | closed Mon
Cost: General Admission is always free (fees apply for some special exhibits/events)
Parking: CMA lot (past north entrance on the left) | $10 ($6 for museum members)
- Bring quarters. Metered parking available on nearby side streets for 75 cents/hour (2-hour max). I spent 9 quarters ($2.25) and took one trip back out to my car to feed the meter. Worth it? You decide.
- Consider joining a docent-guided tour—offered every day at 1 pm. Topics vary.