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The Inquisition is coming! Meet your expert competition for round one

Get the lowdown on your panel of expert competitors for the first round of The Inquisition, Marianne Combs and Andy Sturdevant. This quiz-party series in the gallery pits local art mavens against the peanut gallery, who compete to answer arty questions of fact or topics for debate in the local and national scenes.

Daniel Defenbacher (center) quizzes panelists during an "inquisition," Walker Art Center atrium, 1940

Daniel Defenbacher (center) quizzes panelists during an "inquisition," Walker Art Center atrium, 1940

Have you heard? As part of Benches and Binoculars, the Walker’s running a series of light-hearted art-quiz nights, “The Inquisition,” where gallery visitors can pit their knowledge of contemporary art history, trivia, and oddball artist anecdotes (many of which have been submitted by the public) against that of a revolving panel of experts. Equal parts quiz bowl and art scene silliness, “The Inquisition” is a revival of a short-lived discussion series hosted by the museum in 1940. The quiz party promises to be hugely entertaining for art nerds and casual gallery visitors alike. I’ve been looking forward to playing along, but I wanted to get the scoop on what sort of expert competition those of us in the peanut gallery will be up against.

Meet the “expert” panelists you’ll be competing with tomorrow night:

Writer for MPR's "State of the Arts" blog

Minnesota Public Radio's art maven, Marianne Combs

Marianne Combs – arts reporter for Minnesota Public Radio and writer for MPR’s “State of the Arts” blog

Areas of expertise and special interest?

As an arts reporter who covers everything from dance to theater to fashion, it would be a stretch to say that I’m an expert of any particular area. My job throws me in all artistic directions, which is one of the things I love about it. As an individual, I love photography, the arts and crafts movement, architecture, and pretty much anything involving paper.

What kinds of questions are you most hoping to get?

Easy ones, of course! Actually, I like open-ended questions — ones that make you explore ideas. Names and dates are not my strong point.

In what areas is your confidence shakier?

Confidence? Wait a second… am I supposed to be studying for this?

A piece in the Walker’s permanent collection she always makes a point to visit:

I am thrilled to see that Lyonel Feininger’s Church of the Minorites II is back up on the Walker’s walls, and in fact in the very room where “The Inquisition” takes place. I look forward to coming back to the room several times (if my experience there Thursday night doesn’t leave me traumatized).


Andy Sturdevant

Andy Sturdevant, photo courtesy of

Andy Sturdevant – curator, artist, critic, raconteur

Areas of expertise and special interest?

The fact that I am billed as an “expert” makes me a little nervous, honestly. Areas of special interest would include politics and art, painting, performance, modernism, regional art and general knowledge of artists’ various sexy biographical details.

What kinds of questions are you most hoping to get?

Easy ones. “Softballs” is the professional term, I believe. Although I do feel pretty confident in my abstract expressionism, video art, minimalism, and the work of artists portrayed by well-known character actors in big-budget Hollywood bio-pics.

In what areas is your confidence shakier?

I was asleep for a lot of the 1990s-related portions of my 500-level issues in contemporary art class. I remember something about Matthew Barney and the abject. I may do very poorly on topics pertaining to the 1997 Venice Biennale. I know it’s wrong to write off a whole decade like that but, for whatever reason, quite a bit of work from that era didn’t stick with me as well as might be ideal.

A piece in the Walker’s permanent collection he always makes a point to visit:

I’ve loved Paul McCarthy‘s Documents and Julie Mehretu’s Transcending, which were both displayed across from each other until last September. A recent favorite is Trisha Donnelly’s pair of untitled sphinxes, which I have stared at for hours, trying in vain to figure out what’s going on with them.


The first “Inquisition: Art is Fun” art quiz will take place tomorrow night, January 7 at 7 p.m. in the Perlman Gallery. Admission is free, but the room will only hold about 150 people, so tickets are likely to go fast – you can pick up your free ticket in the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk beginning at 6 p.m. While it’s too late to submit your questions for this “Inquisition,” it’s never too early to start thinking of obscure trivia, art facts, and debate-worthy topics to throw at the experts in the next round, February 11.


  • Hey Susannah,

    Just watched the youtube video. The Inquisition looked a whole lot of fun as long as you aren’t the one being asked the questions lol. Pity it isn’t still going. You probably already know but the youtube link isn’t clickable, had to copy & paste to get to watch it.

    Thanks Susannah,


  • Gary says:

    Yes the youtube video is interesting. I personally don’t enjoy such games (only because I am terrible answering questions when put on the spot) but I do admire others who do well with this – especially on the topics covered! Nice event, congratulations.

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