Allen Memorial Art Museum
Located at: Allen Memorial Art Museum,
87 N Main St Oberlin, OH 44074
The Allen Memorial Art Museum has outstanding collections of more than 12,000 objects, including paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, prints, drawings, and photographs. The museum has a particularly strong collection of European and American paintings and sculpture from the 15th century to today. In addition, the museum has important holdings of Asian paintings, scrolls, sculpture, and decorative art, including a large group of ukiyo-e prints. High-quality African, Pre-Columbian, and ancient art is also represented. The museum houses the Eva Hesse archives, which includes the artist's notebooks, diaries, photographs, and letters.
The complex of museum buildings designed by Cass Gilbert in 1917 represents an eclectic dialogue between Tuscan Renaissance and Midwestern vernacular architectural styles. Architectural styles ranging from neoclassical to Gothic served as models for Gilbert's building programs. In his plans for the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Gilbert employed the vocabulary of Tuscan Renaissance architecture to evoke European art of the past in an inspirational and instructive structure for his Oberlin contemporaries. The 1977 addition designed by Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates comments, with both respect and irony, on that dialogue, and poses an early critique of the orthodox modernist architecture of its day.
The most recent addition to the museum, Denise Scott Brown and Associates, represents one of the earliest and finest examples of postmodern architecture in the United States. In its complex dialogue with the Gilbert building and its innovative use of ornamentation, this building was pivotal in the new appreciation of architectural context and symbol that developed during the 1970s and '80s.