Declared by the American authoritative Newsweek publication as “perhaps the best American museum of contemporary art”, the Walker Art Center has become a kind of icon. Founded in 1879, the museum in Minneapolis grew from a small city gallery into a world-renowned major organization.
The title building of the Center, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes in 1971, was added in 1984: an urban campus designed by the Swiss architectural bureau Herzog & De Meuron is located on 17 acres around the Center. The famous Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is located in front of the Center, which is undoubtedly one of the most famous objects of the American state of Minnesota. In the park are sculptures of such odious masters as Frank Gehry, Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, and Claes Oldenburg, who, in turn, created the very “business card” of Minneapolis – the sculpture of a giant teaspoon with a “cherry”.
While European regional museums of contemporary art are usually established on the initiative of the authorities or large social organizations, in the United States such institutions usually arise thanks to sponsors. This is not only true for contemporary art museums: historically, in the formation of the U.S. museum business, the key role has always belonged to patrons and private capital. Most U.S. museums were founded on the initiative of collectors, art lovers, enthusiasts, and are subordinate not to government agencies, but to the board of trustees, representing non-governmental organizations. Therefore, by comparing European capital and regional museums of contemporary art, it is possible to contrast these institutions. In the United States, the differences in their concepts are very tentative. However, while American regional museums are not as focused on the local art scene as European museums in terms of their collections, they are often superior to European institutions in terms of working with the public.
Now the cultural center focuses not on spatial arts (painting, sculpture, installation), but on spatial and temporal arts (actions, performances, video art, as well as concerts, modern ballet). These forms are now part of the life of any museum of contemporary art: performances and activities under individual projects are regularly held in the halls of New York’s MOMA, Guggenheim Museum, Berlin Hamburg Station, London’s Tate Modern.
Visual art has been part of Walker’s cultural program since its inception. The program includes a cycle of temporary exhibitions and a permanent collection of purchased, donated, and rented works. Since the 1960s, Walker has exhibited works by artists such as Robert Irwin, Glenn Ligon, Barry McGee, Catherine Opie, Lorna Simpson, and Nari Ward.
Walker’s collection is focused on works of contemporary art, mostly dated after 1960. It includes more than 13’000 works of visual art. Walker’s collections include the following famous works of art:
The outstanding American artist and photographer Chuck Close, one of the leading masters of modern art. The famous representative of photorealism in his works carries out an invisible “bridge” between ordinary photography and painting.
Throwing a superficial look at the paintings of Chuck Close, it seems that the whole magic of the work lies in the masterfully done digital processing. But this is a global delusion. Each canvas is painted entirely by hand. After all, the artist began his work in the distant past, when people did not know that soon will open the possibility of processing photos with digital devices; in a time without Photoshop and embellishing the reality of the effects that are so loved by modern users of social networks.
Close’s technology is unique and difficult for an inexperienced viewer, and working on a single picture takes up to several months. In short, the process is quite time-consuming.
The earliest portraits were made in black and white technique. One of the first creations made in this way was a self-portrait, the work on which lasted as long as 4 months.
Franz Marc, talented German artist, representative of expressionism. Widely known series of paintings by the artist “animals-particularly” about horses and “deer-in” about forest animals, in which Marc tried to express his admiration for the miracle of nature. In his works (for example, “The Large Blue Horses”, 1911, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota) he used both broken lines and stylized curves, and shiny unreal color.
“Office at Night” – a work by the iconic American artist Edward Hopper, created in 1940. Performer Edward Hopper (1886-1967) created dark portraits of modern life in America. Known for his Nighthawks paintings, he depicted deserted urban scenes and haunting rural landscapes. Hopper’s oil paintings, watercolors, sketches and engravings expressed the sense of the human squad. Resisting popular tendencies towards abstract expressionism, Edward Hopper became the most important realist of 20th century America.
Edward Hopper (1882 – 1967), Office at Night, 1940
The art of live performance is an essential part of Walker’s program. In 1940, Walker began hosting dance and poetry events, as well as concerts, mostly organized by volunteers. In 1963, since this association became the Central Opera, Walker Center has focused on presenting new works. In 1970, the Central Opera separated from the Walker Center and became the Minnesota Opera. In the same year, “performing arts” was officially established as a branch of the Walker Center.
Since the 1960s, 265 works have been presented at the Walker Center. In addition, the Performing Arts Department annually organizes a series of 25 shows, which include performances, theater, dance, literature, and music. This is one of the largest museum programs in the field of performing arts in the United States. Many artists, such as choreographers Bill Jones, Meredith Monk, and Merce Cunningham, have worked with the Walker Center for many years, and a retrospective installation, Life Performs Art, was installed at the Center to honor them (1998). As a long-time partner of the Merc Cunningham Dance Company, in 2011 Walker was able to purchase 150 art objects from the Cunningham Foundation that were significant to the company’s history: sculptures, sets, costumes, and other works by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Jones.
Walker’s video programs include both contemporary and historical works. In the 1940s, the Walker Center recognized cinema (including experimental cinema) as an integral part of modern life. Artists of that time experimented with light, movement, and sound in cinema, moving away from the standard narrative form.
In 1973, the Department of Film/Video was officially established, and the Edmond R. Ruben Film and Video Study Collection was established, as well as a fund for archive development. Ruben, a prominent figure in the Upper Midwest of the United States, and his wife Evelyn believed that the collection would preserve this art form. Today the Ruben Collection includes more than 850 films, including classic and contemporary works, documentary and avant-garde works, and video works by Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, and Fernand Leger to contemporary works by William Klein, Derek Jarman, Bruce Conner, Marcel Broadhars, Matthew Barney, Nam June Pike, Wolf Fostel and experimental artists like Paul Sharits and Stan Brackage.
The initiative group of new media technologies (now Digital Media) maintains the website mnartists.org, which is an Internet base of artists and organizations in Minnesota. Together with the Institute of Arts in Minneapolis, Walker runs the project “ArtsConnectEd”, an online resource for art teachers.
However, the Walker Art Center emphasizes the importance of these art forms as the most communicative and interactive and sees the future development of contemporary art in this direction. The museum’s theater hall, which seats 385 people, constantly displays such art projects, organizes lectures or programs on visual or performing art. The Walker Museum is consistent in promoting the ideas of openness and interactivity not only in the representation of the most modern and relevant art forms but also in methods of working with the audience. For example, the museum traditionally involves volunteers – students of American universities, who conduct tours and help the public during interactive art events.
So, as a rule, both European and American regional museums of modern art are not only museums but also cultural centers. These institutions are primarily focused not on storage and acquisition of funds, but on holding exhibitions or actions, often with a social or local orientation. While in Europe the regionality of such museums is also reflected in the selection of works (preference is given to local authors), in the United States the main emphasis is on maximum involvement of the general public and the desire to follow the concept of connecting art with life. Often inferior to the world’s largest museums in terms of completeness of collections, regional contemporary art museums are often more understandable, more open to the public, and therefore more modern.
Wurtele Upper Garden of Walker Art Center
The new Wurtele Upper Garden of Walker Art Center is part of a transformation program involving the main entrance to the museum, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and the Walker Art Center campus.
When the Guthrie Theatre was moved in 2006, the 6-acre slope lost its visual connection to the site’s architecture. The main task was to integrate the Wurtele Upper Garden on an area of 19 acres into the interconnected system of the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
The design concept of the new garden annex made it more attractive to visitors. The Advanced Garden Campus includes 12 compositions of shrubs, ornamental grasses, regular plantings, and a sculptured lawn.
Group 1 – a square grid of turf red at the corner of Vineland Place and Hennepin Avenue. Together with the compositions of the sculptures garden determine the entrance to the new campus.
Further along, Hennepin Avenue are two groups of plantings. Group 2 is a grove of Canadian yerga, which has a bright seasonal effect. Group 3 – pear planting in retaining walls with seats made of Brazilian walnut. The Perov’s abrotanous pear planting, which creates the contrast of texture and color with the lines of the white facade in the background, is punctuated.
Group 4 – black birch as a shelter for the service area along the Groveland Terrace. Single trunks with a 5-foot landing step create a forest zone effect. Below is a soft carpet of Pennsylvania sedge.
A grove of maples Autumn Blaze in the garden on a massive hill 14 feet above the parking lot. It offers beautiful views of the city center and is also a place to relax and gather guests during events.
Walker Art Center opened a conceptual online store
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis opened an online store of conceptual art “Intangibles”. According to the idea of the creators of the project, the store should be a mixture of a charity sale with a curatorial exhibition, presenting original works of art.
With the opening of “Intangibles” customers have a truly interesting choice: quite “material” popular posters and designer cups from the “standard” section or the object of conceptual art. The creators of the project in a press release stated their understanding of the fact that not every visitor will buy unusual “intangible” goods, so the “virtual shelf of goods” is at the same time an exhibition, and the store, and representation of modern artistic ideas. The Walker Center sees the Intangibles as an experiment in blurring the boundaries between art, shopping, and media. Among the products sold out in the first few days is a special ringtone “for stress-filled family calls” by contemporary composer Nico Mooley and a series of photos from the artist Alec Sota, sent to the customer through the Snapchat application and disappearing a few moments later. But you can still buy yourself instructions on how to use the devices and technologies that have not yet been invented or the opportunity to become a “customer” of personalized performance. The assortment of offered “goods” is really suggestive, so it will be interesting for the “non-buyer” to “read” into the new section of the museum online store.
More about Herzog & De Meuron
Architects Herzog & De Meuron – Jacques Herzog (b. 19.04.1950) and Pierre de Meuron (8.05.1950) – natives of Basel and Pritzker Prize 2001, design luxury condominiums, fabulous, like woven from white threads or branches stadiums, fantastic museums, exhibition centers, and galleries.
Their role – architecture outside the templates with amazing calculation from volume to detail, their business card – an elegant and artistic choice of materials. They have no equal inability to adapt historical buildings to modern functions, including exhibition and museum, and perfectly fit into the existing urban environment.
Everywhere they try to hear the whisper of genius loci. It is not the “kulër local” and architectural tradition that is important for them: they try to catch the energy individuality of the place where they will build.
The creativity of the Duke and De Meron as a tree: rooted deep in the soil, in the depths of cultural traditions and archetypes, the crown – not only here and now, but also high in the sky, almost in visionary futuristic images and visions. But a characteristic feature of their case is the fact that one cannot exist without the other and is possible only in symbiosis. Having got used to working with historical artifacts fearlessly and freely, architects are increasingly acting as restaurateurs.