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Right now we're working on the March issue of House & Home, which has an exciting focus on colour! There's perhaps no better place to find colour inspiration than a big beautiful art gallery, and I had just that opportunity during a visit to Cleveland before Christmas. (Read our food editor Amy Rosen's thoughts on the city here.)

The Cleveland Museum of Art had organized a great exhibit called "Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904-1965)," which actually ends today, but will be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until the end of April.

The show was interesting from a design perspective because all of the walls were painted deep rich hues rather than the usual stark white gallery backdrop. It's common convention that artwork is best displayed on white walls, so as not to distract the eye from the masterpiece. But in fact, red walls were historically used as a backdrop for art, as the warm engaging colour was thought to draw the onlooker in. I was blown away by how the painted walls of the Fu Baoshi exhibit enhanced the atmosphere of the show.

This is one of Baoshi's most famous pieces, Heaven and Earth Glowing Red, 1964, on loan from China's Nanjing Museum. Baoshi's work speaks to the political and cultural context of socialist China during a turbulent twentieth century, and the wall colours were carefully chosen by designers to reflect this theme. The colours were also used to draw visitors from room to room in a strategic way. Glidden's Matador red (16YR 16/594), for example, captured my attention immediately, giving prominence to specific works, while a deep blue called America's Cup (10BB 11/126) set a dramatic tone at the show's entrance.

Below are the Glidden paint colours used in the exhibit, available through The Home Depot. I think they would make an equally sophisticated palette at home.

Matador (16YR 16/594)

America's Cup (10BB 11/126)

Great Grey (50BG 14/036)

Whetstone (30GY 27/036)

Barn Swallow (30YY 30/106)

Sea Gull Grey (30YY 42/083)

Secret Affair (60YR 83/017)

To get an inside look at how gallery exhibits are designed, here's an interview with the museum's Associate Exhibition Designer, Jim Engelman.

As an aside, admission to The Cleveland Museum of Art's fantastic permanent collection, which boasts works from Monet to Warhol, is free. Beyond the art, the building itself is impressive and really merits a visit.

Originally built in 1916, the historic building was expanded in 2009 by architect Rafael Vinoly.

Vinoly's contemporary East Wing addition beautifully complements the historic façade.

Manageable in size, the gallery is a treat to walk through, complete with sunny glass corridors and gorgeous views of the Fine Arts Garden designed by Frederick Olmsted in 1928.

Cherry blossoms bloom around the banks of a lagoon in Olmsted's garden. I visited when there was snow on the ground, but look forward to going back and experiencing the garden come summer!

For more great paint picks, see our Editors' Favourite Paint Colours photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Tony Dejak, courtesy of the The Associated Press
2. Heaven and Earth Glowing Red 1964, by Fu Baoshi, The Cleveland Museum of Art
3-9. Myperfectcolor.com
10-13. The Cleveland Museum of Art

Author: 

Beth Edwards

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