CLEVELAND - Museums specializing in one narrow aspect of art or history - the naturalistic paintings of Piet Mondrian, let's say, or perhaps the hats of Gen. George Armstrong Custer - can explore their subjects deeply, but they risk losing the attention of visitors who lack an interest in that specific genre. (Although if anyone ever does open a Custer Hat Museum, I'm there.)

CLEVELAND ó Museums specializing in one narrow aspect of art or history ó the naturalistic paintings of Piet Mondrian, letís say, or perhaps the hats of Gen. George Armstrong Custer ó can explore their subjects deeply, but they risk losing the attention of visitors who lack an interest in that specific genre. (Although if anyone ever does open a Custer Hat Museum, Iím there.)

The Cleveland Museum of Art suffers no such risk. The fabulous collection is tremendously eclectic, offering tantalizing tastes of art from every age, region and style.

And, with recent improvements and additions, the galleries themselves are certainly worthy homes for the varied wonders contained therein. The museum offers more than 50 galleries and now covers more than a half-million square feet of floor space. A $600 million endowment has allowed the museum to create a world-class collection of more than 40,000 pieces (only a small fraction of which are on display at any one time).

Asian art was the only style I found missing during a recent visit ó and then only because the galleries that will display the museumís ample collection arenít yet finished. The museumís Asian collection is quite renowned, but those pieces are part of the final phase of a $350 million renovation begun in 2005 and ending this year.

Visitors can already enjoy most of the new and refurbished spaces, including a new atrium that connects the museumís original 1916 building with the 1971 Brewer Building, which now serves as the museumís main entrance.

The vast atrium features a soaring curved-glass ceiling up to 65 feet high and allows visitors to view the grand marble north facade of the original museum building ó which now forms one wall of the atrium ó from climate-controlled comfort.

Inside the atrium is an information desk, seating for the museumís new Provenance Cafe, a bamboo garden and another large planting bed with foliage that looks promising if quite young. The atrium is also a convenient gathering place for the free guided tours each afternoon.

Also opening in the fall was the museumís fine-dining Provenance restaurant. In honor of the missing Asian art, I ordered Vietnamese pho soup and a soy-glazed tuna entree, both of which were excellently prepared and presented ó certainly a step or two up from standard museum fare. I would not be surprised if Provenance becomes a popular dining destination on its own.

The renovations have given the museum a fine sense of flow ó something Iím told was lacking before (and during) the massive renovation. Galleries, which are arranged in a logical and mostly chronological order, are well-marked and mapped. A visitor who wants to move immediately to European impressionism, for example, will have no trouble finding the appropriate gallery quickly and directly.

And, because Iím a sucker for the impressionists, I proceeded hence.

The centerpiece of the gallery is Monetís Water Lilies, a monumental work meant to be part of a triptych. (Museums in St. Louis and Kansas City have the other two pieces.)

I found it instructive to compare the work, painted late in Monetís career, to the two earlier Monets hanging in the gallery.

Spring Flowers ó a still life from 1864 with hyper-realistic color and composition ó seems the opposite of the sleepy Water Lilies.

Gardenerís House at Antibes, from 1888, perhaps Monetís prime, is a much smaller work but, to me, much more emotionally affecting than the other two.

But enough Monet ó and impressionism, for that matter. It was time to expand my art-appreciation horizons and explore the myriad other opportunities.

I found myself newly impressed by the level of artistic achievement on display in the galleries holding medieval art, which just opened in December. Although most of that art is religious, many visitors are sure to be charmed by the secular 14th-century gilt-silver table fountain from a French royal palace.

Elsewhere, I was stopped in my tracks by a ninth-century B.C. Neo-Assyrian stone tablet representing a winged male figure, and I marveled at how important art was even to the ancients ó at least to those who were wealthy or royal.

Nearby was a wonderful and beautiful collection of Greek vessels, depicting black figures on orange clay, from the sixth century B.C.

And every visitor, young or old, will probably enjoy the museumís famous Armor Court, with amazingly decorative European suits of armor, weapons and martial ornamentation.

All art is a matter of personal taste ó a mantra I repeat to myself a lot while looking at modern works.

But I usually find at least one piece that touches me; in Cleveland, it was Anselm Kieferís 1989 piece Lotís Wife: a moving scene of utter destruction punctuated by empty railroad tracks advancing toward an infinity of devastation. Even the canvas seems to have been damaged ó a technique that could have been too precious but which Kiefer rendered to great effect.

Finding oneself instantly transported from age to age, culture to culture, is one of the biggest joys of visiting the museum. The eclecticism can seem a bit abrupt at times, but the museum is certainly able and willing to allow deeper explorations.

One example is the exhibit ďPicasso and the Mysteries of Life,Ē running through April 21 in the Gallery One space.

The show explores one masterpiece from Picassoís Blue Period ó La Vie ó to great depth, offering a ó literally ó penetrating examination of the work. ď Mysteries of LifeĒ makes tremendous use of tablet computers that visitors can use to examine infrared and X-ray images of La Vie, which show the various changes, some quite enigmatic, that the painting went through before completion.

The show also uses additional works by Picasso and other artists to explore themes within the central work to a level that should satisfy the scholar and the layman ó assuming that the layman has any real interest in Picasso to begin with.

If not? Then there are plenty of other artists, motifs and centuries to enjoy at the Cleveland Museum of Art.