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Underperformance Art

Has the art museum's ambitions outstripped its pocketbook?

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The Cleveland Museum of Art is one year into an expansion that, if successful, will keep visitors away till at least 2010.

Meanwhile, the museum's plan for picking up the tab is lagging somewhat behind. When crews broke ground on the $258 million mudpie last fall, only half the money had been raised -- and just $13 million more has followed since. Bonus bummer: CMA has already shaken down its most reliable donors -- corporations, foundations, and old rich guys with bad coughs.

So when the museum announced the hiring of three new fund-raising execs last week, some greeted the news with raised eyebrows. Is it a veiled admission that the campaign is taking on water? Time for new methods of extracting dough from America's Poorest City™?

Dunno. CMA's spokespeople have been packed in storage till 2009, and did not respond to interview requests.

"It appears the museum has brought in new blood in an attempt to jump-start their stalled campaign," says Jason Edward Kaufman, chief U.S. correspondent for The Art Newspaper, an international publication based in New York.

According to Kaufman, at least three-fourths of the $258 million should have been raised by groundbreaking in order to keep the project on schedule. "I mean, $140 million is a tidy sum, but the scope of the planned project . . . requires considerably larger outlays. The previous regime appears not to have rallied the local and national support that the project demanded."

Lack of support locally and beyond -- call it reason No. 1,264 to Believe in Cleveland.

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