The voice of the institution at its core, presenting news and views from across the Walker.
From the hydroseed that’s painted the hillside blue-green to the newly planted grove of honey locust trees near the Walker entrance to the daily appearance of new sculptures, our campus renovation project is truly ramping up. Updates this month: a visit with sculptor Kinji Akagawa, a spate of new arrivals, and a narrowing of a busy street. A […]
From the hydroseed that’s painted the hillside blue-green to the newly planted grove of honey locust trees near the Walker entrance to the daily appearance of new sculptures, our campus renovation project is truly ramping up. Updates this month: a visit with sculptor Kinji Akagawa, a spate of new arrivals, and a narrowing of a busy street.
August 23 was a momentous day here at the Walker: the first sculpture of our redevelopment project was installed. Alexander Calder’s Octopus (1964) was placed on a newly poured concrete pad in the Wurtele Upper Garden, near James Turrell’s underground Sky Pesher, 2005 (2005). It was soon joined by other favorites, including Scott Burton’s Seat-Leg Table (1986/1991) and Kinji Akagawa’s Garden Seating, Reading, Thinking (1987), both situated in groves of conifers in the southwest corner of the Walker hillside.
Commissioned for the 1988 opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Akagawa’s bench/sculpture was designed to offer respite. “I made the piece, but not just as a bench for physical rest,” he told us in 2006. “Intellectually, you have to rest within that kind of context; emotionally, you have to rest looking at all the sculpture. I included a reading lectern and used familiar, Midwestern materials: fieldstone and basalt from St. Croix. The bench provides psychological rest, intellectual rest, and physical rest.”
Nearly 30 years since its garden debut, the work will undergo some restoration before it opens to the public, says Visual Arts Curatorial Assistant Victoria Sung, who recently visited Akagawa at his Afton, Minnesota studio. “The wood has decayed over time, so we’ve sourced new wood—red cedar—and he will be hand hewing it once it arrives.”
The Wurtele Upper Garden got a surreal transformation on September 20, as umpteen gallons of “hydroseed,” a liquid mixture of grass seed and mulch, were applied. In the photo below, the seeded section abuts the wheelchair-accessible pathway that winds up the hill from the restaurant and new entryway. At left, a ventilation duct is newly planted (and soon to be obscured by) native perennials.
Renovation of the Cowles Conservatory is well under way: glass walls have been removed in the first step to converting it to an open-air pavilion that will offer shelter for Garden visitors and a unique setting for weddings and events.
Meanwhile, Vineland Place is undergoing a facelift of its own: it’s being narrowed to slow traffic, ensure safer passage for pedestrians, and provide a stronger visual connection between the Wurtele Upper Garden and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
Scheduled to be completed on October 10, the new street will feature a single lane of traffic in each direction, with turn lanes at the intersection of Vineland and Hennepin/Lyndale and westbound on Vineland at the Walker parking ramp.
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 […]
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.
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, […]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 […]
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:
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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’!”
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 […]
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.
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!
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 […]
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.
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.”
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 […]
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.”
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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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’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.