Blogs Centerpoints Paul Schmelzer

Paul Schmelzer is the editor of walkerart.org and the Walker blogs. He was lead organizer of the Walker's 2015 conference Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age. As a freelance writer, he's focused on art, media, and activism for publications including Adbusters, Artforum.com, Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, Raw Vision, re:form, Utne Reader, and at his personal blog, Eyeteeth. Award-winning former editor of the Minnesota Independent, his interviews with architect Cameron Sinclair, artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and activist Winona La Duke appear in the book Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook (Royal Society of Arts). Twitter: @iteeth

Campus Renovation Update: Breaking Ground, Making Progress

With the Walker’s new entrance and plaza opening in just five months, and a year until the grand reopening of the fully renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, we’ll be publishing monthly updates from now on to catch our community up on new developments in our ambitious campus renovation project. In this month’s update: ground is broken, new sculptures take form, […]

The view from Groveland Avenue: the hillside has been coutoured, trees are going in on the Upper Garden, and concrete for the art walk has been poured. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

The view from Groveland Terrace, June 29, 2016: the Walker hillside has been contoured, trees are going in on the upper garden, and concrete walkways have been poured. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

With the Walker’s new entrance and plaza opening in just five months, and a year until the grand reopening of the fully renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, we’ll be publishing monthly updates from now on to catch our community up on new developments in our ambitious campus renovation project. In this month’s update: ground is broken, new sculptures take form, and a reshaped hillside emerges.

msg2016groundbreaking Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, May 10, 2016 groundbreaking ceremony for garden renovation to be completed by June 2017. L-R: Marion Greene, Jim Dayton, Olga Viso, Jayne Miller, Kevin Reich, Anita Tabb, and Margaret Anderson Kehiller.

Breaking ground for the renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, May 10, 2016. L-R: Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene, campus planning committee chair Jim Dayton, Walker executive director Olga Viso, parks superintendent Jayne Miller, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization’s Kevin Reich, parks commissioner Anita Tabb, and community action coalition chair Margaret Anderson Keliher. Photo: Gene Pittman

Breaking Ground: On May 10, shovels met soil as we officially launched the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. While celebratory, the event took on a somber tone: a day earlier, former Walker director Martin Friedman—whose vision brought us the Garden in 1988—passed away at age 90. Those assembled—from Walker executive director Olga Viso to parks commissioner Anita Tabb—used the occasion to remember Friedman. “What Martin knew was that art could feed the soul, and it could feed the soul in a new and unique way in an outdoor space,” said Tabb. “That’s something that we have really all come to appreciate in a way that we hadn’t in the past. … Not everyone recreates by playing sports. There are other ways to recreate, and I think the Park Board recognized that, with the help of Martin Friedman.”

In addition to revitalized green space and the addition of 16 new sculptures, the renovation will also include sustainability improvements, as Kevin Reich of the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization noted. His group’s $1.5 million investment will ensure that 5 million gallons of water—which would otherwise flow untreated into the river—will be captured and reused each year, instead of going untreated into the river. As MWMO wrote in a recent blog post:

The new landscaping has been designed in a way that embraces the site’s natural hydrology. The new “fresh meadow,” filled with deep-rooted native plants (see the illustration below), will absorb stormwater runoff while providing an attractive visual locus on the garden’s north end. Meanwhile, throughout the rest of the garden, “enhanced turf” — turfgrass with a specially engineered, sandy subsoil — will increase stability while also providing better drainage.

Stormwater runoff — frequently a source of pollution in urban areas — will become a resource for the sculpture garden. An 80,000-gallon underground cistern will hold captured stormwater runoff and excess water from the famous Spoonbridge and Cherrysculpture. From there, it can be pumped throughout the site to water the sculpture garden’s landscaping as well as the adjacent baseball field.

Mark Manders with Olga Viso

Aaron Spangler with Olga Viso. Photo: Dan Avchen

Works in Progress: With five commissioned works slated for the renovated campus, studios near and far are abuzz as new sculptures are being created. Olga Viso checked up on one, visiting Aaron Spangler’s Park Rapids, Minnesota studio to view the basswood sculpture that’ll eventually be cast in bronze. Meanwhile, curatorial assistant Misa Jeffereis traveled to Ronse, Belgium for a tour of Mark Manders’s studio. For his commission, Manders began with molded wet clay and wood and then cast the forms in bronze, before painting them to look indistinguishable from the original components.

A Mark Manders sculpture in progress in his Belgium studio. Photo: Misa Jeffereis

Mark Manders’s sculpture in progress in his Belgium studio. Photo: Misa Jeffereis

Moving Art: Now that Sol LeWitt’s crosswalk is reinstalled on the Walker’s rooftop terraces, other works can resume their place alongside it. In mid-June, Claes Oldenburg’s Geometric Mouse — Scale A, last on view in late 2013, was reinstalled on the terrace next to LeWitt‘s Three x Four x Three (1984). Meanwhile, most sculptures have been removed from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden as work begins on renovating the green space, with only a few—including Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988), LeWitt’s X with Columns (1996), and a tree planted in solidarity with Joseph Beuys’s 7,000 Oaks project—remaining on site for the duration of the project.

A portion of Geometric Mouse l

A portion of Geometric Mouse lifted to the Walker terrace, June 20, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

Birds-Eye View: Back in April, Carl Bolander and Sons used a drone to capture progress on the Walker’s upper garden, which opens to the public—along with a new main entrance, hillside walking path, and new restaurant—in early winter.

Carl Bolander and Sons

A drone’s eye view of the hillside project shot in late April. Photo: Carl Bolander and Sons

Since the photo was taken, renovation of the sculpture garden has begun, and on the Walker hillside, conifers and deciduous trees have been planted, concrete pads for sculptures have been poured, and the new entry plaza have begun to take shape.

A view of the art walk, with James Turrell's Skyspace at center. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

A view of progress in the upper garden, with James Turrell’s Sky Pesher, 2005 (2005) at center. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

On the north side of the Walker, the dramatic Vineland Place entrance will open to a new restaurant, lobby, and gift shop, as well as the cinema. Under a green roof, a glass wall facing the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden will offer stunning views of the upper and lower gardens for diners at the Walker’s new restaurant.

Facing the sculpture garden, a new entrance is taking shape. A glass wall will offer stunning views of the upper and lower gardeners at the Walker's new restaurant. Photo: Chris Cloud

Facing the sculpture garden, a new entrance plaza (at right) is taking shape. Photo: Chris Cloud

Renovation Update: Sculptures Move to Gold Medal Park

In preparation for the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory, some of the Garden’s most beloved art is finding a temporary home. This week three favorites make their debut in Gold Medal Park, in downtown Minneapolis just adjacent the Guthrie Theater: Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule […]

goldmedal In preparation for the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory, some of the Garden’s most beloved art is finding a temporary home. This week three favorites make their debut in Gold Medal Park, in downtown Minneapolis just adjacent the Guthrie Theater: Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule (1977–1983), and Tony Cragg’s Ordovician Pore (1989).

Other works from the Garden have already gone into storage, but additional sculptures will be moving to guest venues this fall. Jacques Lipchitz’s Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953) will be on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish (1986) will find a home in the Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus in early winter of 2015. The iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen will remain on view in the Garden until spring 2016, when full construction begins, as will Richard Serra’s Five Plates, Two Poles (1971) and Sol LeWitt’s X with Columns (1996). The sculpture garden improvements are part of a broader plan to renovate and unify the entire 19-acre Walker campus, an ambitious project that involves the construction of a new entry pavilion for the Walker, a new green space on the Walker hillside, and the greening of Hennepin Avenue.

Walker Director Olga Viso captured these shots of works by Hatcher and di Suvero in their new environs:

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Walker Registrar Joe King took these snaps of Prophecy of the Ancients’ move, while our friends at the Guthrie posted a quick video of Molecule arriving at its new home.

Photo Sep 11, 10 48 21 AM Photo Sep 11, 10 49 43 AM Photo Sep 11, 10 52 49 AM

Jade Mountain Returns

October 3 marked a homecoming, albeit temporary, for a beloved work of art: long part of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ collection, Jade Mountain was installed in the galleries for the October 16 opening of Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections. Its history with the Walker goes back more than 100 years […]

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Walker and MIA art handlers install Jade Mountain in Art at the Center

October 3 marked a homecoming, albeit temporary, for a beloved work of art: long part of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ collection, Jade Mountain was installed in the galleries for the October 16 opening of Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections. Its history with the Walker goes back more than 100 years to the museum’s founder, Thomas Barlow Walker.

Jade Mountain Illustrating the Gathering of Scholars at the Lanting Pavillion (1784), carved from light green jade in Qing Dynasty China, chronicles members of an ancient literary society as they celebrate the Spring Purification Festival alongside a stream in Shaoxing. As curators explained on the joint Walker/MIA website ArtsConnectEd: “The scholars engaged in a drinking contest: Wine cups were floated down a small winding creek as the men sat along its banks; whenever a cup stopped, the man closest to the cup was required to empty it and write a poem. In the end, 26 of the participants composed 37 poems. Wang Xizhi was asked to write an introduction to the collection of these poems.” That poem, transcribed by Emperor Ch’ein-lung, appears on Jade Mountain.

The work, the largest jade carving outside of China, was brought to the United States by Herbert Squiers, who served as Secretary of the U. S. Delegation in Peking (Beijing) until 1901. Squiers donated much of his collection of Chinese jade and porcelain to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but after his death in 1912 the remainder was put up for auction. T.B. Walker’s top bid of $4,000 brought the work to Minneapolis. Included in a “time capsule” within Art at the Center, Jade Mountain is presented in front of a photographic reproduction of Walker’s mansion, where the the 640-pound sculpture is visible on a table. The work was part of Walker’s collection through his death in 1928, his gallery’s reopening as a public art center in 1940, and throughout much of the Walker Art Center’s modern history. In 1976 Jade Mountain went on long-term loan to the MIA, and over the ensuing decade negotiations led to the permanent transfer of its ownership to the MIA. The MIA generously agreed to lend this spectacular piece for Art at the Center in commemoration of the Walker’s 75th anniversary as a public art center. It will remain on view here until March 29, 2015.

 

Kudos in DC: At the National Medal of Arts Ceremony with Olga Viso, Bill T. Jones, and James Turrell

During her first meeting as an appointee to the National Council on the Arts in March, Walker director Olgo Viso had the privilege of nominating recipients for the 2014 National Medal of the Arts. “It was an invigorating and inspiring discussion about what qualifies as excellence in American culture across the artistic disciplines,” she told […]

Olga Viso with Bill T. Jones and Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy. Photo: Cameron GainerOlga Viso with Bill T. Jones and Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy. Photo: Cameron Gainer

Olga Viso with Bill T. Jones and Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy. Photo: Cameron Gainer

During her first meeting as an appointee to the National Council on the Arts in March, Walker director Olgo Viso had the privilege of nominating recipients for the 2014 National Medal of the Arts. “It was an invigorating and inspiring discussion about what qualifies as excellence in American culture across the artistic disciplines,” she told us. On Monday, Viso was present in the White House as President Obama awarded 2013’s edition of the prize to 11 artists and one organization. Representing a diversity of disciplines and aesthetics, those honored ranged from singer Linda Ronstadt to architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, author Maxine Hong Kingston to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Two honorees have especially deep ties to the Walker: choreographer Bill T. Jones and sculptor James Turrell. Jones’ relationship with the Walker spans nearly 35 years, from the world-premiere performance of Break (with Maria Cheng) in 1981 to a series of Walker-commissioned works, from The Promised Land (1990) and Still/Here (1994)—which sparked heated debate after New Yorker critic Arlene Croce dubbed it “victim art“—to 2012’s Story/Time. His work and creative process was also showcased in the 1998 cross-disciplinary exhibition Art Performs Life: Merce Cunningham/Meredith Monk/Bill T. Jones. Turrell is best known for the Roden Crater, his ongoing project to turn an inactive volcano crater in Arizona into an immersive environment for experiencing natural shifts in light. Similar ideas guided his Sky Pesher, an underground sky-viewing chamber commissioned by the Walker and realized on our hillside in 2005.

Viso attended Monday’s ceremony with husband and artist Cameron Gainer, Ranee Ramaswamy, founder of Minneapolis-based Ragamala Dance and a member of the National Council on the Arts, and her daughter Aparna, Ragamala’s co-director. “It was a pleasure to witness this moving ceremony to hear President Obama so eloquently and passionately affirm the importance of the arts and artists in civic life and to acknowledge the need for provocative artists like Bill T. Jones in society,” says Viso. “It was also fun to hear him admit that he had a ‘crush’ on Linda Ronstadt ‘back in the day’!”

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Olga Viso with James Turrell. Photo: Cameron Gainer

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Minnesota Sen. Richard Cohen and Olga Viso in the White House’s East Library. Photo: Cameron Gainer

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Cameron Gainer with Krista Tippett, host of the St. Paul-based public radio show On Being, who was awarded a National Humanities Medal from President Obama Monday. Photo: Olga Viso

Curating the Shop: Michele Tobin on Buying, Selling, and Etsy Pages

When Etsy invited its first round of tastemakers to be part of Pages, a new initiative launching today that helps Etsy visitors navigate its universe of artists and artisans, it invited retailers, magazines, and design pros — from Swiss Miss and Apartment Therapy to west elm and Tom Dixon — to share their recommendations. Only […]

Walker Shop Retail Director Michele Tobin

Walker Shop Retail Director Michele Tobin

When Etsy invited its first round of tastemakers to be part of Pages, a new initiative launching today that helps Etsy visitors navigate its universe of artists and artisans, it invited retailers, magazines, and design pros — from Swiss Miss and Apartment Therapy to west elm and Tom Dixon — to share their recommendations. Only one museum shop was invited: Ours. Shop director Michele Tobin is always on the hunt for hand-crafted items that best illustrate the Walker Shop’s brand — “modern living, well-crafted” — and for Etsy she’ll be hand-picking her favorite projects from the site’s more than 18 million listings. To commemorate Pages’ launch — including the Walker’s Etsy Page — we caught up with Tobin to hear more about what she does in the Shop and how.

At the Walker we use the term “curate” carefully. But isn’t that what you do in the Shop?

In short, yes. In the Walker Shop, items are for sale, of course, so the selection criteria is different than in a gallery. But the idea of collecting items from a common point of view is the same.

What does curating a museum shop entail?

There are overarching necessities within a retail setting – price point, packaging, product type (do I have enough scarves for the fall?).  Then there are seasonal considerations – outdoor living items and vases for fresh flowers should be available in the Spring, messenger bags and hats in the Fall, for instance. For the Walker, there are several more layers. The themes and points of view of the artists we work with, along with the interpretation of our curators and the educational programs we present, inform the buying process and presentation in the Shop.

How do you keep up on ideas, products, trends, and makers?

You want me to tell you all my secrets?! Every buyer has their own methodology developed over time. For me, there are companies that work with designers that I have my eye on all the time. I also attend buyers’ shows in New York and Chicago to look for new lines and emerging designers.  There’s also a constant, steady flow of email pitches flowing through my inbox, and sometimes a hidden gem shows up there (but truthfully, there isn’t enough time in the day to read them all!). My favorite way to discover something new is word of mouth – someone I know found something I should take a look at, and I just have to have it!

Are “influencers” important to you, and if so, who are some of yours?

While I have my eye on what other retailers are doing, honestly, I like to forge my own way. I used to be much more focused on other museum stores and tastemakers, but I started to feel a little bit like I was chasing my tail. Now I get my inspiration from what designers are doing and items that excite me, and I bring them to the Walker to hopefully give our customers a fresh point of view and some of the same inspiration and excitement.

How does working with Etsy support the mission of the Walker Shop?

The Walker’s main mission is supporting creative expression, and the same is true in the Walker Shop. Etsy has allowed me to see scores of handmade items that I wouldn’t see otherwise, and now Pages will provide a way for me to tip the Walker hat to an artist or designer for a job well done.

What do you love about Etsy?

I love the unpredictable treasure hunt of Etsy. It’s fun! Sometimes you see some crazy stuff, but usually I’m just amazed at how beautiful or well executed a design is.

The Walker's Etsy Page, curated by Michele Tobin

The Walker’s Etsy Page, curated by Michele Tobin

What non-shop/non-consumer ideas or people influence your work at the Walker?

I love art installations – how things are organized, the pedestals or platforms that are made, how things hang on the wall or from the ceiling. I’m also fascinated by public places and how people interact with them. Why do some benches always have people on them and some never do? I think those things inspire me to create an experience that is beautiful but also engaging.

What would you love to sell that won’t fit in our shop?

Well, baby animals would probably drive traffic during the holiday season…

I would love to have the space to highlight more furniture and lighting design. I bring in some select pieces to showcase, but to do it well we need a different size and location. We also currently don’t have any real walls to hang posters, organizational solutions, clocks, etc. But, I’m working on that – stay tuned!

How do you feel about online shopping?

I think it’s very convenient! I know I certainly shop online (only for things that aren’t in the Walker Shop, of course!). What’s interesting is that there are many people who prefer it. Everything is easy to see, with good photography and detailed product information.  That’s very interesting, and an important consideration when developing in-store and online strategies. For example, we have many Minneapolis online customers. That wasn’t something I expected, but I think it’s great.

What was the first thing you remember buying?

Sequined ribbon globe ornaments.  That was a long time ago… no judging!

Scenes from Station to Station in St. Paul

Station to Station, the “polyphonic culture train” spearheaded by artist Doug Aitken, made its way to St. Paul Thursday night. While the locomotive itself was nowhere to be seen — it was parked at Midway Station — a train of artists made its way to the stage and throughout the expansive station. Four yurts outside […]

A peek inside Kenneth Anger's yurt, where Anger's Lucifer Rising was screening.

A peek inside Kenneth Anger’s yurt, where Anger’s Lucifer Rising was screening. All photos by Paul Schmelzer

Station to Station, the “polyphonic culture train” spearheaded by artist Doug Aitken, made its way to St. Paul Thursday night. While the locomotive itself was nowhere to be seen — it was parked at Midway Station — a train of artists made its way to the stage and throughout the expansive station. Four yurts outside greeted around a thousand visitors, while inside, art, drink, and music were the fare. Here’s a look — including a clip of Patti Smith’s headlining performance — of what you missed.

Linking the Walker's Fritz Haeg exhibition with Station to Station, the BodyCartography Project performed with yields from Haeg's gardens in and around the Union Depot.

Linking the Walker’s Fritz Haeg exhibition with Station to Station, the BodyCartography Project performed with yields from Haeg’s gardens in and around the Union Depot.

Minneapolis-based artist Kate Casanova with American FWKErj, a Pacer with mushrooms growing from its upholstered seats

Minneapolis-based artist Kate Casanova with Vivarium Americana, a 1976 AMC Pacer she turned into a terrarium that grows oyster mushrooms from the upholstery.

Juliette Brungs, dancer/choreographer Patrick Scully, and BodyCartography Project founders Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad.

Juliette Brungs, dancer/choreogrpher Patrick Scully, and BodyCartography Project founders Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad.

Lawrence Weiner designed flags for each of Station to Station's stops. Here's what he came up with for St. Paul.

Lawrence Weiner designed flags for each of Station to Station’s stops. Here’s what he came up with for St. Paul.

Ariel Pink, who later performed on the Station to Station stage.

Ariel Pink, who later performed on the Station to Station stage.

Vendors included The Beez Kneez, a Minneapolis-based honey producer, which delivers its wares on bikes. Pictured, Kristy Lynn Allen.

Vendors included The Beez Kneez, a Minneapolis-based honey producer that delivers its wares via bicycle. Pictured: Kristy Lynn Allen.

Inside the yurt designed by Ernesto Neto.

Inside the yurt designed by Ernesto Neto.

Minneapolis' Mark Mallman, prior to joining Patti Smith and her son Jackson on stage. “I didn’t get their names,” Smith said of her local bandmates, which included Mallman and Gary Louris.

Minneapolis’ Mark Mallman, prior to joining Patti Smith and her son Jackson on stage. “I didn’t get their names,” Smith said of her local bandmates, which included Mallman and Gary Louris.

No Age's Randy Randall playing guitar with a drumstick.

No Age’s Randy Randall playing guitar with a drumstick.

Chicago's White Mystery, the brother/sister team of  Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White.

Chicago’s White Mystery, the brother/sister team of Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White.

Patti Smith, performing a powerful cover of Neil Young's "It's a Dream."

Patti Smith’s powerful lo-fi performance included a cover of Neil Young’s “It’s a Dream” (see video below).

Patt Smith at Union Depot, St. Paul from Eyeteeth on Vimeo.

Culture and Nature: Station to Station’s Video Portrait of Minneapolis/St. Paul

Next month, a nine-car train departs from New York bound for Oakland. Dubbed a “nomadic happening,” the train will be part traveling fun show, part kinetic art project, and part broadcast beacon, beaming ideas about art, music, and culture around the world. The brainchild of artist Doug Aitken, Station to Station is making a stop […]

Next month, a nine-car train departs from New York bound for Oakland. Dubbed a “nomadic happening,” the train will be part traveling fun show, part kinetic art project, and part broadcast beacon, beaming ideas about art, music, and culture around the world. The brainchild of artist Doug Aitken, Station to Station is making a stop at St. Paul’s Union Depot September 12, for a night of art, music, and film benefiting the Walker. In a multimedia essay, Wired’s Clive Thompson writes of Aitken’s goal for the project:

To make art that’s simultaneously physical and virtual, local and global, broadcast using a mashup of the Internet and one of the oldest networks in the US, the steel rails. If Song1 was liquid architecture, this is practically a plasma. “We’re living in a new topography,” Aitken says. “Is it possible to be everywhere and nowhere?”

But while placelessness — being everywhere and nowhere — is part of the aim, so is rootedness. In anticipation of this epic rail ride, the team behind Station to Station is producing video portraits of the cities hosting the train’s stops. Released today is the Minneapolis/St. Paul edition, featuring footage of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the Walker galleries, and Rock the Garden 2013, as well as an interview with Walker executive director Olga Viso, who explains the unique nature-meets-culture identity of the Twin Cities.

“People belief things are possible, and that’s a fertile place for art to really flourish,” says Viso. “There’s a great love of doing things collectively. There’s  a strong sense of communal pride, this wanting to come together and gather, and to make things happen. And obviously music and art are central to what makes people come together and appreciate both culture and nature.”

A Day for Detroit: Walker Favorites from the DIA Collection

Many of us at the Walker are disappointed by Monday’s news that Kevyn Orr, emergency manager for the city of Detroit, has contracted with the auction house Christie’s to assess the value of artworks in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection that might be sold to settle the city’s municipal debts. While such a sale […]

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Vincent Willem van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1887

Many of us at the Walker are disappointed by Monday’s news that Kevyn Orr, emergency manager for the city of Detroit, has contracted with the auction house Christie’s to assess the value of artworks in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection that might be sold to settle the city’s municipal debts. While such a sale is not inevitable, Orr has said he wants all options “on the table” in dealing with Detroit’s bankruptcy. We’re in agreement with the American Association of Art Museum Directors — of which Walker executive director Olga Viso is a member — in opposing such a course of action. “A museum’s collection is held in public trust for current and future generations,” AAMD said in a recent statement. “This is a bedrock principle of the Association of Art Museum Directors and of the museum field as a whole. Art collections are vitally important cultural and educational resources that should never be treated as disposable assets to be liquidated, even in times of economic distress.”

Today we join with more than a dozen art websites in observing A Day for Detroit, spearheaded by Modern Art Notes’ Tyler Green as a way to showcase works in the DIA’s collection that could be threatened by such a sale. Below, favorite DIA artworks as selected by Walker staff, along with a few reflections on the art and the institution that’s given it a home.

“As a prescient City of Detroit purchase, van Gogh’s self-portrait would be among the most vulnerable masterpieces should any sale move forward,” says Andrew Blauvelt, the Walker’s design curator and Chief of Communications and Audience Engagement. “It is one of just a handful of van Gogh’s self-portraits that the public can see in the United States, which, if sold, would likely enter a private collection. One more transfer of wealth from a public trust to private hands.”

Vincent Willem van Gogh, The Diggers

Vincent Willem van Gogh, The Diggers, 1889

Associate registrar Pamela Caserta says a different van Gogh — The Diggers from 1889 — as her favorite piece in the DIA collection. She writes:

“The Detroit Institute of Arts is energized, lively, and essential. The arts could be Detroit’s saving grace, but not if the state sells away one of the city’s most impressive traits. To dismantle Detroit’s most prized collection would be a disservice, not only to the people who live an love Detroit, but to the future of its position as a cultural center, and to the international communities public access to important masterworks. Detroit is already attracting artists who are working to transform its terrain, perhaps around ideas like urban farming, clean energy, and creative expression.”

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John Singer Sargent, Mosquito Nets, 1908

“It’s hard to select just one favorite in the DIA collection, but I’m going old school by Walker standards with John Singer Sargent’s Mosquito Nets. Sargent’s portrait—of what its provenance suggests may be his sisters Emily and Violet—feels a little like Downton Abbey crossed with Minnesota summer,” says Robin Dowden, director of New Media Initiatives.

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William Adolphe Bouguereau, The Nut Gatherers, 1882

Scott Lewis, supervisor of the Walker’s frame shop, has deep ties to Michigan: He grew up in Jackson, went to college near Pontiac, and lived in Detroit for six years, where he and his wife had their first daughter. A great fan of the DIA collection, he points to two “stunners”: Judith and Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi and The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. But his favorite painting is The Nut Gatherers by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. “I would make it a point to visit the work every time I went to the DIA, even if for a minute,” he says. “For a long while it hung beside the Farnsworth Entrance beside the Visitor Services desk, a testament to its popularity. Many think the work of Bouguereau is sentimental, but perhaps that’s why I like it. I liked the innocence of the subjects, the brush work, the color and shading – it’s a work of real craft. Later, my wife and I produced two daughters: one blonde and one dark haired.  I’ve felt that The Nut Gatherers was a window to my future.” He notes that his daughters gave him a Father’s Day gift years ago: a photo of the two of them reenacting the image.

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Richard Estes, Blue Cadillac, 1967

Mia Lopez, a curatorial fellow for Visual Arts, often visits family in Detroit. “Whenever we visit, my mother and I love to stop by the DIA. She enjoys photorealism and had an early influence on my taste: Richard Estes is someone we both appreciate.”

Arthur Rothstein, Father and Sons Walking in the Face of a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936

Arthur Rothstein, Father and Sons Walking in the Face of a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936

“I enjoy the opposing sensations of getting lost and grounded in the Rothstein photograph,” says Walker photographer Gene Pittman. “The persistence of the subjects to continue on their path in this storm feels like a portrait of Detroit.”

Pietro Radillo, Venetian Contadino, late 19th century

Pietro Radillo, Venetian Contadino, late 19th century

Pittman offers a second pick, from the DIA’s extensive collection of objects and ephemera related to the performing arts. “I want to photograph this face and listen to his story,” he explains. “I want my son to see this puppet and tell me what he is saying.”

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket,

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket, 1875

“When I finally saw Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold in person last year, I was literally left breathless by its beauty,” shares Sarah Schultz, the Walker’s director of Education and curator of public practice. “That memory will never leave me.”

John Sloan, McSorley's Bar

John Sloan, McSorley’s Bar, 1912

“A beautiful example of John Sloan’s work which captures the street life of New York,” says archivist Jill Vuchetich of her pick. “The work was purchased for DIA directly from the artist in 1924! That’s a wonderful legacy and would be a great loss to DIA.”

Diego Rivera, Detroit Industry, South Wall, 1932-1933

Diego Rivera, Detroit Industry, South Wall (detail), 1932-1933

“Diego Rivera’s stunning Detroit Industry Murals, painted on the north and south walls of the museum, are one of the unquestioned masterpieces at the DIA, that virtually no other US museum can boast,” says Olga Viso, Walker executive director. “Depicting laborers working at the city’s Ford Motor Company River Rouge Plant in the 1930s, Rivera saw and painted the significance of Detroit as a world city. His vision of Detroit in the early 20th century provides not only an important historical record of the city’s past achievements that is paramount to preserve, but also offers an important touchstone from which to consider and imagine its future.”

What are your favorite works from the DIA collection? Share your thoughts in comments, and please consider supporting this valuable cultural institution however you’re able.

Tom Crosby: A Tribute

It’s fair to say the Walker–and, indeed, downtown Minneapolis–might not look the way it does today without the influence of Tom Crosby, who passed away Sunday at age 74 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. A board member for 45 years, Crosby was close advisor to three Walker directors, served as president of the board […]

Roger Hale (currently an Honorary Trustee), Martin Friedman (currently Director Emeritus), Justin V. Smith (a Walker family member and former president of the T.B. Walker Foundation), Walter Walker (a Walker family member and the late husband to current board member Elaine), and Tom Crosby, with paperwork making the Walker a truly public institution, 1976. Photo: Walker Art Center Archives

Roger Hale (currently an honorary trustee), Martin Friedman (director emeritus), Justin V. Smith (a Walker family member and former president of the T.B. Walker Foundation), Walter Walker (a Walker family member and the late husband to current board member Elaine), and Tom Crosby, with paperwork making the Walker a truly public institution, July 30, 1976. Photo: Walker Art Center Archives

It’s fair to say the Walker–and, indeed, downtown Minneapolis–might not look the way it does today without the influence of Tom Crosby, who passed away Sunday at age 74 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. A board member for 45 years, Crosby was close advisor to three Walker directors, served as president of the board of trustees at key moments in the Walker’s history, and contributed, with his wife Ellie, generously to help the Walker realize some of its most important projects, from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in 1988 to the Herzog & de Meuron expansion in 2005, the 2012 exhibition Lifelike to our current project restoring the building’s façade, to name but a few. Throughout nearly five decades, Crosby was at the center of many of the Walker’s biggest moments.

The great grandson of John Crosby, a founder of General Mills Corporation, Crosby specialized in real estate law, becoming a partner, and later managing partner, at Faegre & Benson (now Faegre Baker Daniels). He joined the Walker board of trustees in 1967 and quickly grew close to then-director Martin Friedman. He was president of the board in 1976 when the T.B. Walker Foundation agreed to transfer $27 million to the Walker Art Center, an important moment that brought more community members into Walker governance, making the institution a fully public museum.

The Crosby family’s generous giving to the Walker’s Annual Fund helped make recent exhibitions–including Sol LeWitt:  2D+3D and 1964–possible, and the couple’s gifts of artwork–including Ellsworth Kelly’s 2001 lithograph Dark Blue–have bolstered the Walker’s collection (this summer the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden will see the installation of a new sculpture, the conceptual work, For Whom, by Kris Martin, which the Crosbys and other Walker board members purchased on the Walker’s behalf and in honor of Friedman). And in coming years, it will help reinvent the Walker’s four-acre green space, host to Rock the Garden and Open Field. Active since his first moments with the Walker, Crosby served as chair of a range of committees over the years–from Government Relations to the Park Board–as well as serving as president, vice president, and chair of the Walker board. He also ensured the solid legal counsel of his firm.

The neighborhoods abutting the Walker and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden have also been transformed with Crosby’s help. Active in downtown commercial real estate, Crosby was involved with the acquisition, financing, and disposition of major Twin Cities properties such as the IDS Center, Baker Center, and Minneapolis City Center. He also served on the board of directors of Oxford Development Group Limited, a real estate developer with major downtown projects in several Canadian cities and in the Twin Cities, Denver, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Crosby’s civic enthusiasm extended to other organizations and municipalities where he shared his passions and skills. The mayor of Medina just prior to his death, and a past city council member there, he served on the boards of Greater Twin Cities United Way, The Minnesota Orchestral Association,  The Blake School, and Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, among others.

But it’s Crosby’s personal counsel, on issues of varying degrees of magnitude, that will most be missed by those of us who knew him through the Walker.

“Tom was always the voice of calm and reason, even in the most difficult situations,” notes Olga Viso, executive director of the Walker. “I so appreciated how his mind worked–his probing questions, how he could parse and dissect the relevant issues, and the way he always kept the highest possible end goal and aspiration in mind. He was absolutely brilliant at finding solutions that worked for everyone, and he was especially savvy at finding ways to confidently realize challenging artistic projects in public space, even if they might at times test the bounds of state or city ordinances!”

“During my first weekend living in Minneapolis, Tom and his wife Ellie invited me to their home,” she recalls. “I will never forget the subzero temps that Sunday morning in January as they took me on a hay ride around their gorgeous property.  While I at first thought that he might be testing my fortitude in those first days as director, I knew when he and Ellie handed me a pair of wool mittens with warmers inside that he would be a great friend and partner.”

The Walker’s past directors concur. “Tom was always at your side when you needed him, personally and professionally,” says emeritus director Friedman. “He was devoted to the Walker and saw us through many a crisis. He is irreplaceable.”

“Tom was two things which are becoming increasingly rare: a great citizen and a thoughtful friend,” says Kathy Halbreich, Walker director from 1991 to 2007 (now associate director at the Museum of Modern Art). “He just had a natural gift for knowing the right set of questions regardless of whatever the dilemma. He never panicked and always answered with what I initially thought was common sense and came to understand was wisdom delivered without pride.”

She recalls an incident when a conservative group had singled out books for sale in the Walker Shop as pornography. “His response was to ask where else the books were sold which, after a couple ofhours of research, turned out to be quite a comprehensive list including the Harvard co-op,” she recalls. “Tom and Ellie even got me to go camping. Once. Good friend, great guide, indispensable civic leader. Both Walker and I are in his debt.”

We extend our sympathies to Ellie and the entire Crosby family, their friends, and all those touched by Tom Crosby’s remarkable life. He will be missed.

 

The Walker’s Most Popular Blog Posts of 2012: Cats!

Twenty-Twelve was a big year for our blogs: we redesigned them, renamed them, and added a few new ones–including Centerpoints and Walker Seen. We also grew traffic. Here’s a look at some of the posts that best took hold across the interwebs.  1. Cats! Cats! Cats! This just in: folks on the Internet like them. […]

Twenty-Twelve was a big year for our blogs: we redesigned them, renamed them, and added a few new ones–including Centerpoints and Walker Seen. We also grew traffic. Here’s a look at some of the posts that best took hold across the interwebs.

A crowd of 10,000 watched the first ever Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker

A crowd of 10,000 watched the first ever Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker

 1. Cats! Cats! Cats! This just in: folks on the Internet like them. So the wild success of our Internet Cat Video Festival shouldn’t have been a surprise, especially given how much traffic our blog posts got. Hands down, our most popular post was our May announcement about the festival, but people also really wanted to know about voting for “best in show,” nominating videos, and details on attending the summer festival, which drew 10,000 people to our lawn the last day of August. Missed it? Here’s a video recap.

The Hold Steady at Rock the Garden 2012

The Hold Steady at Rock the Garden 2012

2. For Those About to Rock: The annual spring reveal of bands in our annual Rock the Garden concert has become a not-to-be-missed event, and the 2012 edition glued listeners to the radio as the Walker and 89.3 The Current named off the lineup at a live event at the Fitz in St. Paul. Livestreamed on the blogs, we revealed the names as well. Here’s who played our tenth Rock the Garden in June: Howler, tUnE-yArds, Doomtree, Trampled by Turtles, and headliner The Hold Steady. Missed it? Here’s a time-lapse of the entire day.

Exhibition catalogue for Graphic Design: Now In Production

Exhibition catalogue for Graphic Design: Now In Production

3. Designing About Design: The designers behind the exhibition Graphic Design: Now In Production share glimpses of what went into the design of the exhibition catalogue on the popular design blog, The Gradient. The show is on view until January 6, 2013, at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and then it moves to the Grand Rapids Art Museum on Feb. 1 and the Contemporary Art Museum Houston on July 20.


4. Puzzling Over Design: Maybe it was the interactive quiz or the Draw-Tippy illustration, but designer Andrea Hyde’s post calling for applicants for the Walker Design Studio’s annual design fellowship really packed ’em in. No word on how many young designers aced the “art test.”

Still from Kim Beom's Yellow Scream (2012)

Still from Kim Beom’s Yellow Scream (2012)

5. Now Screaming: Kim Beom’s video work Yellow Scream (2012), spotted by Walker curators at the Gwangju Biennale, came into the Walker collection late this year. The piece–in which an actor gives a Bob Ross–style demonstration of a painting technique in which brush strokes are accompanied by various kinds of screams, thus altering the makeup of the applied paint–was made available on the Walker Channel for a limited time (Dec. 6-18, 2012), yet still generated enough buzz to be among our most popular posts all year.

More posts that blew up this year:

Insights 2012: Aaron Draplin’s “100 Things I Love About Minneapolis”, The Gradient

The Madness Letters: Friedrich Nietzsche and Béla Tarr, Crosscuts

Lifelike: Installing Robert Therrien’s Giant Folding Table and Chairs, Untitled (Blog)

Insights 2012: Aaron Draplin’s “100 Things I Love About Minneapolis”

Vintage Makeover Ideas for a Downtown Thoroughfare, Centerpoints

“Vote No”: A Walker Family Photo, Centerpoints

Insights 2012: Michael Lejeune (in conversation with Lisa Middag)The Gradient

Beyond Interface: #Opencurating and the Walker’s Digital Initiatives, Media Lab

Negative Space: Mungo Thomson Approaches the Void with New Walker Mural, Untitled (Blog)

Painting as Score: Sarah Crowner on FormatUntitled (Blog)

 

Related: The Walker’s Most Popular Articles of 2012: Haring, Hodges, and a Giant Folding Chair

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