Best on Display: Twin Cities Exhibits
Compiled By Ellie M. Bayrd
Museums in the Twin Cities celebrate history, art, science and imagination. And there are nearly 60 museums to choose from (only Chicago and Washington, D.C. have more). Whether you want to see unique sculptures, dinosaur bones, modern paintings or Minnesota artifacts, we can guide you to the best places for you or for the kids. Take a look at these metro museums and the exciting exhibits they have on display right now, and then explore our listings for more museums worth a stop.
Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-375-7600, www.walkerart.org
Dubbed “possibly America’s best contemporary art museum” by Newsweek, the Walker Art Center is always thought provoking. View the works of modern artists in new media, explore creative forms of expression, and maybe get a bit out of your comfort zone. The museum is designed to get you thinking. Help the whole family understand the art with a free WAC Pack, in which kids find games and activities (for different ages and interests) that make the art more accessible and help them navigate the collection. And don’t forget to walk across the street for a peek at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, home to a number of creative pieces, including the iconic “Spoonbridge & Cherry.”
Exhibits on display right now include “Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy” and “Lifelike” (through May 6 an May 27, respectively). Frank Gaard’s art often includes cartoon-like exaggerated faces and fantastical (and sometimes fetishistic) imagery, influenced in part by his life lived with bipolar disorder. See 75 pieces of his art in this, the largest-ever exhibition of his work. “Lifelike” explores art based on common objects and situations. Featuring works in a variety of media from artists of all ages and from many different countries, “Lifelike” examines a trend for simple realism in art that began in the 1960s.
Weisman Art Museum
333 E. River Road, Minneapolis, 612-625-9494, www.weisman.umn.edu
The Weisman Art Museum’s humble beginnings date back to 1934 when the University of Minnesota began amassing a collection. Namesake Frederick R. Weisman later donated $3 million to fund the creation of the Frank Gehry-designed building, which opened in 1993. The modern-art museum overlooks the Mississippi River in Minneapolis—distinctive for the curves and angles of stainless steel sheets that shine on its river-facing exterior in the sunlight. Architect Gehry, whose portfolio includes such buildings as the Guggenhiem Museum in Spain, the Experience Music Project in Seattle, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, returned in 2011 to design renovations to the Weisman.
The new design added nearly 8,100 square feet comprising five new galleries, surrounding the remainder of the Weisman with the riverside’s signature shimmering steel look. New galleries focus on ceramics, masterworks of American modernism and collections of photography, prints and drawings, as well as the experimental Target Studio for Creative Collaboration. This allows the museum to display more of the 20,000 works of art in its collection at a time.
For the Weisman exhibit “Sympathies” (through May 20), the museum commissioned two contemporary artists to present works inspired by the museum itself. See how Sharon Louden and Eun-Kyung Suh used aluminum-flashing strip and silk materials to share their response to the collection. Learn why Käthe Kollwitz earned a reputation as a controversial artist during her lifetime in “Käthe Kollwitz: Making Human” (through July 1). The exaggerated figures Kollwitz created from her surroundings in Berlin often emphasize fragility and suffering, perhaps bordering on the grotesque. The exhibit explores Kollowitz and her contemporaries. Admission at the University of Minnesota Weisman Art Museum is free to visitors.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Avenue S., Minneapolis, 888-642-2787, www.artsmia.org
Inside the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) in south Minneapolis, the museum presents galleries of African, Asian, and Native American artifacts, plus a wide range of paintings, photographs and sculptures from the 20th century. The building, designed by McKim, Mead and White in 1915, is a neoclassical beauty. Additions by architect Michael Graves in 2006 added 34 new galleries and some modern architectural touches. With a permanent collection of 80,000 objects spanning 5,000 years, the museum has an impressive array of artifacts on display. The museum is free and open to the public, and sits adjacent to the Children’s Theatre Company.
This month, the MIA’s Target Gallery welcomes “The Sports Show,” an exhibit exploring the role of photography and media in the evolution of sports (through May 13, $8). See video of charismatic professional athletes who thrust sports into the spotlight and find out how television and media helped transform the field of athletics. The exhibit features photographs from the MIA and other institutions as well as television clips, movies, and more.
American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-871-4907, www.asimn.org
Located in the historic Turnblad mansion in Minneapolis, the American Swedish Institute (ASI) honors the Nordic background of many Minnesotans. Swedish immigrant Swan J. Turnblad founded the ASI in 1929. The French Chateauesque mansion that houses the museum was built in 1908 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Outside, the mansion features turrets and gargoyles that lend to its castle-like appearance. Inside, the mansion includes 33 rooms decorated in period style.
The museum reopened last fall after extensive renovations to its lower level. The adjacent Nelson Cultural Center (opening this summer), a 34,000-square-foot LEED-certified addition, will include an art gallery, studio, lecture hall, museum shop and café. Discover the art of figure carving in “Wit in Wood: Nordic Figure Carving” (through May 27). Learn about this Nordic tradition and view some beautiful examples of these amusing characters.
Minnesota Children’s Museum
10 W. Seventh Street, St. Paul, 651-225-6000, www.mcm.org
Located in downtown St. Paul, the Minnesota Children’s Museum is a destination for young imaginations. You won’t see a “do not touch” sign here, where children are encouraged to explore in a hands-on environment. Permanent exhibits include “Earth World,” which explores Minnesota’s natural habitat; “Our World,” which encourages imaginative play in a pretend neighborhood; “World Works,” where kids can experiment with water, light and more; and “Habitot,” a special room for babies and toddlers to explore in a soft environment. Watch as kids of all ages scamper or crawl their way through these exciting exhibits.
Traveling exhibitions make each visit to the Children’s Museum different. “Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body” (through May 13) harnesses children’s natural curiosity about the human body. Learn about those impolite bodily functions that are not discussed around the dinner table in this exhibit based on the book Grossology by Sylvia Branzei. Kids can also get to know the story behind some of their favorite objects in “How People Make Things” (through June 3). Inspired by the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood factory tour segments, the exhibit helps to answer the many questions posed by inquisitive young minds.