Cranbrook Art Museum Announces Four New Fall Exhibitions

Allie McGhee Banana Moon Horn
Building Cranbrook: Saarinen in Michigan
Cranbrook Art Museum in the News
James Haefner: Michigan Modern
Olga de Amaral To Weave a Rock
Press Releases

The First Major Retrospectives of Legendary Fiber Artist Olga de Amaral and Legendary Detroit Artist Allie McGhee

A Look at Michigan’s Modern Movement and the Building of Cranbrook


Olga de Amaral: To Weave a Rock
Allie McGhee: Banana Moon Horn
October 30, 2021 – February 13, 2022

James Haefner: Michigan Modern
October 6, 2021 – January 9, 2022
Building Cranbrook: Saarinen in Michigan
October 9, 2021 – January 9, 2022


Bloomfield Hills, Mich., October 6, 2021 — This month, Cranbrook Art Museum announces the opening of four new fall exhibitions that will showcase a legendary Academy graduate, a Detroit icon, the photography of Michigan’s midcentury modern movement, and the building of Cranbrook.

“This season’s exhibitions underscore the dual mission of Cranbrook Art Museum, one tied to the collecting and interpreting the work of influential alumni of Cranbrook Academy of Art and the achievements of Detroit-based artists. Olga de Amaral and Allie McGhee are preeminent examples of this mission,” said Andrew Blauvelt, Director of Cranbrook Art Museum. “At the same time, we celebrate the impact that Michigan has played in the development of modernism in America, and in this regard, Eliel Saarinen’s Cranbrook campus and the more than forty examples of significant architecture found across the state and captured by photographer James Haefner offer a resounding case for such excellence.”

Each exhibition is detailed below. The Art Museum will celebrate them all with a special ArtMembers Opening on October 29, 2021, from 6–9pm. Tickets can be obtained on the Art Museum’s website.

Olga de Amaral, Estelas (Stelae), various dates, linen, gesso, gold leaf. Photo: © Diego Amaral

Olga de Amaral is one of the most recognized names in Latin American art who studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1954-1955. She currently lives and works in her native Bogotá, Colombia, where her work has evolved beyond the functional qualities of weaving into more experimental and sculptural woven forms.

This exhibition traces the artist’s career over five decades and is Amaral’s first major museum retrospective in the United States. It consists of more than 40 works that showcase her influence and technical innovations. The exhibition is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, where it was recently on view from July 25 through September 19, 2021, before traveling to Cranbrook.

“This retrospective allows audiences to see the six decades of my work side by side for the first time,” Olga de Amaral said. “I was thrilled to have it open at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, last summer, as it holds leading collections in both decorative arts and Latin American art in the United States. The exhibition was co-created with Cranbrook Art Museum, the museum of my alma mater, Cranbrook Academy of Art, which is such an important part of my creative history and where I met my husband, the artist Jim Amaral. This retrospective and publication have been years in the making, and I feel they are a wonderful showcase of my life’s work.” 

The artist was first introduced to the medium of fiber during her studies with Marianne Strengell at Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1954-1955. Amaral has experimented radically with material, composition, and space – transforming flat woven tapestries into forms that defy the confines of any genre or medium.

Amaral’s woven sculptures are the result of a lifetime of experimentation and material studies drawing on techniques like plaiting and wrapping, using materials as varied as horsehair and gold leaf. Amaral has formed a unique visual language of abstraction that draws upon Colombia’s landscape and history as well as the artist’s own identity.

Taking its title from an assignment Amaral had given to her students at the famed Haystack craft school in 1967, the exhibition Olga de Amaral: To Weave a Rock poetically expounds on her expansive views of textile practice. Still practicing in her eighties, Olga de Amaral’s work offers a prescient exploration of the expressive potential of fiber at a moment of renewed interest in the medium by contemporary artists and historians alike.

Olga de Amaral: To Weave a Rock is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The exhibition is curated by Laura Mott, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art and Design, Cranbrook Art Museum, and Anna Walker, former Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The project is generously supported by The National Endowment for the Arts, a Craft Research Fund Grant from the Center for Craft, and The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Arts.

Curator’s Talk: October 30, 2021 @ 6pm. Join Laura Mott, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art and Design at Cranbrook Art Museum, and Anna Walker, former Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for a conversation about the creation of the exhibition. Visit the Cranbrook Art Museum website to register for tickets to attend the event in person or watch the free live stream.

Allie McGhee, Fall Rush, 2013, acrylic and enamel on paper. Photo: Courtesy the artist and Hill Gallery

Allie McGhee: Banana Moon Horn
October 30, 2021 – February 13, 2022

Allie McGhee has been an important pillar of the Detroit art scene for more than five decades with a practice defined by his signature approach to abstraction. This is the largest retrospective of McGhee’s work and will feature significant past works from his extensive and dynamic collection and new works created exclusively for this exhibition.

“I find my inspiration in many forms, from the melody of jazz to photographs from the Hubble telescope. The world is full of possibility and my work helps me better understand our place in the universe,” said McGhee. “I’m looking forward to showing the arc of my creative practice through the exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum. For the first time, I will be able to show a large selection of my work over decades and highlight the connections between years of practice.”

In the late 1960s, McGhee shifted his practice from representational depictions because he was drawn to the long communicative history of geometry and abstraction in the timeline of humanity. One constant inspiration has been traditional African sculpture and its forms of symbolism. The title of this exhibition—Banana Moon Horn—is the name McGhee has given to the recurring arcing forms that he has explored throughout his career. The Banana Moon Horn has associations ranging from the natural world, humor, and ancient art—interpretations that are both intentional and welcome.

McGhee can be found in his Detroit studio “every single day except Christmas,” and this exhibition is a crescendo of his daily experiments over the years. McGhee’s vivacious mind has also rendered his studio an important place for lively conversations across generations, particularly in the Black artistic community. The background of these discussions is often set to the sound of jazz, a musical ethos of improvisation and lyrical abstraction that also emerges throughout McGhee’s practice.

Allie McGhee: Banana Moon Horn is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by Laura Mott, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art and Design.

Allie McGhee in Conversation with Laura Mott: November 11, 2021 @ 6pm. Join McGhee and Cranbrook Art Museum’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art and Design, Laura Mott, as they discuss McGhee’s work and his first major retrospective. Visit the Cranbrook Art Museum website to register for tickets to attend the event in person or watch the free live stream.

Clockwise from left: Melvyn Maxwell and Sara Smith House, W. Hawkins Ferry House, McGregor Memorial Conference Center, Cranbrook Educational Community. Photos: James Haefner

James Haefner: Michigan Modern
October 6, 2021 – January 9, 2022

Featuring 50 photographs by acclaimed Bloomfield Hills-based photographer James Haefner, this exhibition emerged from Haefner’s work documenting important examples of historically significant architecture throughout Michigan for the State Historic Preservation Office’s Michigan Modern project, which began in 2008.

Diverse in style and rich in significance, the Michigan Modern project documented landmark buildings throughout the state, from the innovative GM Tech Center designed by Eero Saarinen in Warren, Michigan, and the refined beauty of Minoru Yamasaki’s McGregor Conference Center at Wayne State University in Detroit to Richard Meier’s iconic Douglas House in Harbor Springs and Zaha Hadid’s striking MSU Broad Art Museum in East Lansing.

James Haefner: Michigan Modern is organized by James Haefner with interpretive texts by Brian D. Conway, author of Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy, and curated by Andrew Blauvelt, Director. It is supported by ArtMembers of Cranbrook Art Museum and the Museum Committee.

Public Lecture: November 4, 2021 @ 6pm. Join James Haefner and Brian D. Conway for a conversation about the Michigan Modern project that inspired this exhibition. Visit the Cranbrook Art Museum website to register for tickets to attend the event in person or watch the free live stream.

Photos by James Haefner

Building Cranbrook: Saarinen in Michigan
October 9, 2021 – January 9, 2022

In conjunction with the James Haefner: Michigan Modern exhibition is a gallery of photographs by Haefner of Cranbrook’s historic landmark campus, highlighting the architecture of Eliel Saarinen.

Eliel Saarinen was already an architect of renown in his native Finland before emigrating with his family to the United States in 1923. He would meet George Booth, Cranbrook’s founder along with his wife Ellen Scripps Booth, through his son Henry who was studying architecture with Saarinen at the University of Michigan. Saarinen would commence building the Booths’ dream of Cranbrook in a series of astoundingly beautiful buildings, completing the historic campus in stages from 1927–1942. The result is one of the world’s most enchanted places—a total work of art, where every detail has been designed.

Over the last several years, Haefner has documented the art and architecture of Cranbrook, including the buildings featured in this exhibition: Kingswood School, the Academy of Art Library and Art Museum, and Saarinen House, as well as new images of Cranbrook Schools.

Building Cranbrook: Saarinen in Michigan is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by Andrew Blauvelt, Director, with support from ArtMembers of Cranbrook Art Museum and the Museum Committee.

Public Lecture: December 2, 2021 @ 6pm. Director of Cranbrook Art Museum, Andrew Blauvelt, and Curator of the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, Kevin Adkisson, will discuss the architecture of Eliel Saarinen as featured in the exhibition. Visit the Cranbrook Art Museum website to register for tickets to attend the event in person or watch the free live stream.

Cranbrook Art Museum's Lower Level Galleries are open. Enjoy Pay-As-You-Wish Admission through October 29.