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 and co-editor of its online publishing complement, Superscript Reader. As a freelance writer, he's focused on art, media, and activism for publications including Adbusters, Artforum.com, Hyperallergic, 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: Forward Progress and Finishing Touches

With the Walker’s new front door opening to the public on November 11—just in time for Avant Garden, our annual fundraising gala, on November 19 and the international symposium Avant Museology on November 20 and 21—we’re applying finishing touches, inside the art center and out. While renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden continues through the winter, the expanded Walker […]

The new Walker sign, installed on the Vineland Place entry, just above the windows of Esker Grove. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

The new Walker sign, installed on the Vineland Place entry, just above the windows of Esker Grove, November 1, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

With the Walker’s new front door opening to the public on November 11—just in time for Avant Garden, our annual fundraising gala, on November 19 and the international symposium Avant Museology on November 20 and 21—we’re applying finishing touches, inside the art center and out. While renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden continues through the winter, the expanded Walker building will be on full view during our open house weekend, December 1–4. Here’s a look at recent developments on both sides of Vineland Place.

As Esker Grove hires an “all-star” staff to oversee the restaurant’s kitchen and cocktails, the space itself is shaping up, with wood flooring now installed inside and the center’s signage—in the Walker’s iconic typeface—going up just outside. (Esker Grove opens for business in early December.) Adjacent Esker Grove is an expanded lobby and orientation area. With floor-to-ceiling glass, the well-lit space offers views of Vineland Place and the Garden; inside, digital signage announces upcoming screenings in our state-of-the-art cinema and a new video wall—measuring 11 by 7 feet—will offer some of our favorite short videos about Walker programs, artists, and ideas. A welcome desk will greet visitors, and a new satellite gift shop, dubbed Walker Shop (Little), will offer souvenirs and Walker merchandise—a fitting complement to the original Walker Shop (Big).

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An airy, spacious lobby includes a new nine-screen video system that’ll play contextual videos about Walker art and programs. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

New signage directs visitors to the new restaurant and newly renamed galleries. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

New signage directs visitors to the new restaurant and shop. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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A smaller version of the Walker Shop—appropriately named Walker Shop (Little)—will greet visitors to the new Vineland entrance. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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The view of Vineland Place—now narrowed to one lane, with a new turn lane for visitors to the Walker parking ramp—as seen from the roof of the Walker’s Barnes building, October 31, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

The narrowing of Vineland Place is finished (including lane striping, curb, and gutter), grass seed on the hillside is taking root, and a new sculpture pad (below at right) has been prepared for the installation of Liz Larner’s 2013 sculpture X

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As seen from the rooftop, the Walker hillside, with new accessible path connecting upper and lower garden. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

…which occurred just yesterday:

Installation of Liz Larner's sculpture X (2013). Photo: Olga Viso

Installation of Liz Larner’s sculpture X (2013), November 2, 2016. Photo: Olga Viso

Across the street, sculptures are being installed nearly every day as well, including favorites by Deborah Butterfield, Dan Graham, Richard Serra, and Tony Smith. Kris Martin’s For Whom… (2012)—a suspended bell that swings to mark each hour, but with no sound—is now situated on the north end of the Garden. Thematically, it’s in good company: on one side is Barry Flanagan’s Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers (1983); on the other, the bell tower of the Basilica of St. Mary.

The upper garden's footpath, as seen from the roof of the Walker's Barnes building, October 31, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

Three bells: Adjacent the Arlene Grossman Memorial Arbor and Flower Garden, Barry Flanagan’s Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers (1983), Kris Martin’s clapperless bell, and the Basilica of St. Mary’s bell tower. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

One of 19 new works acquired or commissioned for the renovated Walker campus is Hephaestus (2013) by Los Angeles–based artist Matthew Monahan. A representation of the Greek god of metallurgy, the work anchors a section of the garden dedicated to figurative works by artists of several generations, including Kiki Smith, George Segal, and Tony Cragg, among others.

Photo: Pavel Pys

Newly installed, Matthew Monahan’s Hephaestus (2013). Photo: Pavel Pyś

Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988), the fountain-sculpture by Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg, hasn’t left the garden, but it’s getting new digs. A lined pond surrounding the work is part of the garden’s new stormwater infrastructure. Created in partnership with, and through important investment from, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), the system includes reuse technology that’ll capture excess water from the garden—including from Spoonbridge’s fountain—and use it to irrigate the site. One less visible feature of this infrastructure was installed in October: an 80,000-gallon underground cistern that’ll store captured runoff. As MWMO’s Nick Busse writes, “This series of interconnected tanks will serve as a reservoir of stormwater that can be pumped through irrigation lines and used to water the garden’s landscaping as well as the adjacent baseball field.”

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A new pond for Spoonbridge and Cherry. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

The renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden reopens in June 2017.

View of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden from the Walker Barnes Building rooftop, October 31, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

View of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden from the Walker rooftop, October 31, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

View more updates on the Walker/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation.

Campus Renovation Update: Seeding and Siting

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 […]

bg2016msg0823_Calder Building & Grounds, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Walker Campus Renovation. Installation of Alexander Calder's Octopus (Accession number 1968.1) on the hillside, August 23, 2016. Rocket Crane hoists the sculpture past the recent plantings on the hill. Photo by Paul Schmelzer.

Alexander Calder’s Octopus (1964) being installed in the Wurtele Upper Garden, August 23, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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 glimpse of how Alexander Calder’s Octopus (1964) made it’s way into the Upper Garden of the #WalkerCampus yesterday.

A video posted by Walker Art Center (@walkerartcenter) on

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.

Curatorial Assistant with Kinji Akagawa in his Afton, Minn., studio. Photo:

Victoria Sung with Kinji Akagawa. Photo: Andy Underwood-Bultmann

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.”

bg2016msg0829_Akagawa Building & Grounds; Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; installaing Kinji Akagawa bench on hillside, August 29, 2016. Walker Campus Renovation; Rocket Crane; crew.

Siting Kinji Akagawa’s Garden Seating, Reading, Thinking (1987), August 29, 2016. Photo: Gene Pittman

In main garden, Jim Hodges’s steel-clad boulders (2011) and Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Sagacious Head 6 (1989–1990) are now in place:

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Jim Hodges’s steel-clad boulders, installed September 15, 2016. Photo: Gene Pittman

bg2016msg0901_Abakanowicz Building & Grounds; Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; WAC Campus Renovation. Installation of Magdalena Abakanowicz sculptures, Sagacious Head 6 and Sagacious Head 7, Accession numbers 1992.157 and 1992.158, in the garden, September 1, 2016. Rocket Cranne; crew.

Magdalena Abakonowicz’s pair of giant, bronze “heads,” installed beyond the “lilypads” on the northeast edge of the Garden. Photo: Gene Pittman

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.

Seeding the hillside offers a surreal scene, September 20, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

Seeding the hillside offers a surreal scene, September 20. Bottom left: an air vent bordered by perennial plantings. Center right: ADA pathway. 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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.

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Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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.

Vineland Place as seen from the Walker’s rooftop terrace, Septemer 22, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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.

View more updates on the Walker/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation.

Campus Renovation Update: Inside, Outside, Across the Street

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 […]

The full view of the 19-acre Walker campus undergoing renovation, July 28, 2016. Click to enlarge. Photo: Gene Pittman

A panoramic view of the full Walker campus undergoing renovation, July 28, 2016. Click to enlarge. Photo: Gene Pittman

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.

Outdoor steps lead to a green roof, punctured by skylights, that will stream sunlight into the new restaurant below. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

Outdoor steps lead to a green roof, perforated by skylights that will stream sunlight into the new restaurant below, August 9, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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.

Beyond a north-facing glass wall, the Walker's new restaurant takes shape: a skylight (upper left) and bar shelving are soon to be installed. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

Beyond a north-facing glass wall, the Walker’s new restaurant takes form: a skylight (upper left) and bar shelving are soon to be installed. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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. 

Nairy Baghramian and Fionn Meade survey the upper garden. Photo: TBD

Nairy Baghramian and Fionn Meade survey the upper garden. Photo: Misa Jeffereis

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.)

Then: then in progress, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden takes shape, 1987. Photo: Walker Art Center Archives

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in the making, 1987. Photo: Walker Art Center Archives

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation as of August 9, 2016. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

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.

The three "lilypads" will be home to Photo: Paul Schmelzer

As seen from the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, three “lilypads” will be home to, clockwise from left, works by Theaster Gates, Mark di Suvero, and Katharina Fritsch. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

The full campus schematic, with "lilypads" at left. Image: © HGA Minneapolis and oslund.and.assoc.

The full campus schematic, with “lilypads” at left. Image: © HGA Minneapolis and oslund.and.assoc.

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.

Bright and new, Sitzwuste repainted. Photo: Joe King

Bright and new, Sitzwuste repainted. Photo: Joe King

Franz West's Sitzwuste, primed and ready for a coat of color paint. Photo: Joe King

Franz West’s Sitzwuste, primed and ready for a coat of color paint. Photo: Joe King

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Tony Smith’s Amaryllis after a coat of primer. Photo: Joe King

Check back next month for a new update, or read our July 1 dispatch.

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.

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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

Learn more about progress on the Walker/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation project.

Campus 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.

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Learn more about progress on the Walker/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation project.

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’!”

OlgaTurrell

Olga Viso with James Turrell. Photo: Cameron Gainer

OlgaSen

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

CamTippett

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.”

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