Both inside the Walker and across the street in the garden, big changes are evident as great progress is being made in unifying the 19-acre Walker and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden campus. Here’s a glimpse at what’s been happening behind the construction fencing.
Stepping Up: The Walker’s new restaurant, opening in December, has a name and an executive chef. Esker Grove, which takes its name from two geological features of the restaurant’s setting—the earthen ridge and tree clusters situation just outside its windows—will be headed by executive chef Doug Flicker, of Sandcastle and Piccolo. The restaurant’s interior is taking shape, with key features already in place including two skylights, the restaurant bar, and wall-to-wall windows facing the Garden. Outside a stairway has been installed that takes visitors from the Center’s new front door to the restaurant’s green roof, connecting with a series of ADA-accessible pathways that wind up the hillside. Meanwhile, on the Hennepin side of the building, granite steps have been removed and earth is being contoured in preparation for new plantings that’ll provide much-needed greening to a busy roadway.
Site-Specific Art: Great strides are being made on new artworks commissioned for the garden, and last month saw several artists visit Minneapolis to view the final destination for their in-progress works. One, Berlin-based artist Nairy Baghramian, checked out James Turrell’s Sky Pesher, 2005 (2005), which will ultimately be a neighbor to her trio of new sculptures. Continuing her Continuing her “Privileged Points” series (2011–), the large-scale works will convey a fictitious lightness even as they are rendered in either aluminum or bronze.
Also making site visits during the month were French artist Philippe Parreno, who’s creating an installation with both indoor and outdoor components, and Twin Cities–based artist Kinji Akagawa, whose Garden Seating, Reading, Thinking, a bench commissioned to open the original garden in 1988, will be reinstalled. Additionally, our curatorial team traveled to Chicago to meet with Theaster Gates, whose commission will take the form of a “secular-sacred sanctuary.”
Then and Now: Thanks to the Walker Archives, we can compare the way the Garden looked the year before its grand opening with today’s project, about a year before reopening—both shot from the Walker terraces. (The 1987 view features a baseball field on the north end of the garden; that 3.5-acre parcel became part of the Garden in a 1992 expansion.)
Lilypads Emerge: At the north end of the Garden, three “lilypads”—as we’ve been calling three new circular earthen sculpture pads—are starting to emerge from the earth. Just north of Spoonbridge and Cherry, they’ll eventually showcase Katharina Fritsch’s giant blue rooster, Hahn/Cock (2015), Mark di Suvero’s sculpture/swing Arikidea (1977–1982), and Theaster Gates’s commissioned installation.
New Coats: In preparation for their reappearance in the renovated garden next year two familiar works have gotten a makeover. Tony Smith’s Amaryllis (1965/68) has been primed and painted its signature black, while Franz West’s Sitzwuste (2000) bench sculptures have been repainted (again). Read more about the particular challenges of conserving outdoor sculpture.
Check back next month for a new update, or read our July 1 dispatch.