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Highlights from a Saturday at the Walker Art Center

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Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection at the Walker Art Center / Pierre Ware, courtesy Walker Art Center
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Highlights from a Saturday at the Walker Art Center

By Zoey Cole

Located just south of downtown Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center is the foremost contemporary art museum in Minnesota and one of the most-visited modern art museums in the United States. But until recently my friend Rose had no idea it existed.

Rose is a Minneapolis-based filmmaker and loves experimental art and film. She also lives right down the street from the Walker Art Center.

“You’ve never been to The Walker?” I asked. “How is that possible?!”

Art gazing at Walker Art Center

Art gazing / Carina Lofgren, courtesy Walker Art Center

The Walker is known for showcasing modern and contemporary art. Through the years, that’s meant acquisitions by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe and Chuck Close (his Big Self Portrait is one of my favorite pieces of all time); the Internet Cat Video Festival; and of course, Claes Oldenburg's and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, sitting in the center of the adjoining Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

So, in my dual roles as a devoted friend and aspiring Minneapolis tour guide, I devoted a sunny Saturday afternoon to exploring the museum and accompanying sculpture garden with Rose.

Group of people sit in a circle in front of the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture on a busy summer day

Spoonbridge and Cherry (1988) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden / Courtesy of Walker Art Center

Sight-Seeing at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden sits on 11-acres adjacent to the Walker Art Center. As you wander the grounds, look towards downtown to marvel at the interplay between whimsical sculptures and the gleaming Minneapolis skyline.

We visited some of my favorite sculptures on the property:

Hahn/Cock

Created by Katharina Fritsch (who loves tongue-in-cheek names), Hahn/Cock is a 25-foot tall ultramarine blue rooster that is so bright and tall you can see it easily from Lyndale Avenue.

Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth

I have photos on my phone from years ago when my friends and I first discovered this interactive sculpture and tried to find all the different reflections possible. The sculpture (or pavilion, as the artist prefers to call it) consists of partially mirrored glass panes, shrubs and punched steel plates.

The pattern of these elements creates the opportunity to look at both yourself and the people around you at the same time, with different reflections at each angle around the sculpture. I insisted that Rose walk all the way around it to get the full experience, and we, of course, took more photos.

Woodrow

Rose and I did a double take when we walked by this horse-shaped bronze sculpture, which was new to me—the bronze is so intricately textured we were convinced it was actually sticks and pieces of driftwood! We weren’t the only ones who were fooled, either. As we looped back to inspect the artwork, we were joined by a small crowd of fellow admirers.

Two people sitting on a bench to view a painting at the Walker Art Center

Two people view a painting on display for "Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection" at Walker Art Center / Pierre Ware, courtesy Walker Art Center

Inside the Walker Art Center

We ventured inside, and I realized I couldn’t have picked a better time to introduce my friend to this museum. The Walker’s newest exhibition, Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection (on display until Jan. 1, 2023) offers a fascinating crash course in the Walker’s collection and the ways different pieces are in conversation with one another. The exhibit is organized by its five titular themes: Self, Inside, Outside, Everyday and Everything.

As we explored the exhibit, Rose and I stumbled across the incredible, new-to-us work of Frank Big Bear, an Anishinaabe artist from Detroit Lakes in Northwest Minnesota. His massive, 7-foot-tall colored pencil drawing, Chemical Man in a Toxic World, blew us away with bright neon colors and intricately drawn surreal figures. We stared at this piece for some time, making sure to take in each of the small scenes on the busy, colorful canvas.

Feel'd by Christina Quarles depicts multiple women’s bodies intertwined on a bright green surface

Christina Quarles, Feel’d, 2018 / Collection Walker Art Center, Edward R. Bazinet Charitable Foundation

Next, we wandered toward Don’t let this be easy (on display through July 4, 2021), an exhibition presented in coordination with the Feminist Art Coalition to highlight 50 years of diverse women artists’ work. We wanted to see a painting by up-and-coming artist Christina Quarles on display: “Feel’d.”

Quarles is famous for showing intimate and almost impossible movement in her paintings, and Feel’d is no exception. The warm colors of multiple women’s bodies intertwined on a bright green surface take time to actually see. The images are so involved with each other, we took a moment to appreciate the piece.

Other highlights of the day included Andy Warhol’s shot-on-Polariod Self-Portrait in Drag, and a series of untitled prints by Carrie Mae Weems that show a couple slowly coming together over the evening table after a long day.

A Late Lunch at Cardamom

We ended our tour with a meal at Cardamom, the Walker’s on-site restaurant specializing in Aegean and Mediterranean cuisine. Our late-afternoon lunch did not disappoint. It was just about the best way to end an afternoon at the Walker—outdoors, overlooking the hillside and The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and enjoying delicious foods and drinks.

COVID-19 Protocols at Walker Art Center

Last updated: April 5, 2021

To help maintain 6 feet of social distance between visitors and staff, all visitors must obtain a timed-entry ticket in advance. The Hennepin Avenue and Upper Garden entrances are closed; enter the building through the main lobby on Vineland Place, or from the parking ramp beneath the museum. Signage has been installed to encourage social distancing and help with traffic flow. Building visitation is limited to 150 people at all times. Hand-sanitizer units have been installed throughout the building. Face masks are required for all visitors (no exceptions). 

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Zoey Cole

Zoey Cole is a reader and writer from Southeast Minnesota. She works in book publishing, and enjoys Midwest summers and cross-country skiing.