Minneapolis: A Cool Midwestern City Sports Hot Museums

Article excerpt

The Dakota Sioux Indian tribe who welcomed French explorers around 1680 would be very surprised if they saw the Minneapolis region today. With a population base of 3.5 million for the metropolitan area, it is one of the major centers of the Midwest.

The Sioux would also be amazed at what the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul) have done to alleviate the icicle months. You don't have to be rugged as a Viking now to like living or coming here, even in the five months of the year when the temperature flirts with the zero mark. Minneapolis has seven miles of sky-ways that offer comfortable transport through the busy downtown areas bringing you close to the art centers and here in the twin cities architectural jewels could compete with the New York skyline. In their museums, permanent installations and transient exhibitions more often than not, put more renowned US art centers to shame.

The Walker Art Center

Like many museums today, the Walker Art Center which was founded in 1927, has expanded its original gallery tower with a 2005 addition that includes the new McGuire Theater. Adding the theater greatly increases the non-visual art function of the museum.

Now the Walker can show its permanent collection, some 8,000 pieces, in its expanded mode, increasing space from 30,000 to 400,000 square feet, and creating 11 additional exhibition galleries. There is still ample room for the non-permanent exhibits, assembled from the world's most prestigious museums for presentation in the US.

The Walker sees its prime mission as the presentation of Twentieth Century art, figurative and abstract, domestic and foreign. Among the significant works, it features hundreds of artists such as Joseph Beuys one of the most important German sculptors and performance artists of the 1970's; Marcel Broodthaers who worked primarily with found objects; Helen Frankenthaler the eminent American color field painter; Robert Motherwell an abstract expressionist; Larry Rivers American painter and printmaker; and Adolph Gottlieb another outstanding American artist.

This year the Walker featured an extensive exhibition "Picasso and American Art" which traced Picasso's influence on many American masters. In another show Kara Walker a young Afro-American was featured. Walker comes to grips with all aspects of slavery and its lingering effects on whites as well as blacks. Working primarily with silhouettes she recreates the often painful experience in unforgettable fashion. Attendance for both shows was phenomenal.

Currently on view, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, who has captured the hearts and imagination of the American public, are 46 paintings that illustrate her journey to self-realization. The show centers on her deeply critical self portraits that allowed her to paint her own reality. "The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to." Her harrowing life was punctuated by a terrible traffic accident that left her paralyzed and by her blind, often misunderstood, devotion to Mexico's brilliant muralist Diego Rivera.

Among the stunning presentations here are her "Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird." Kahlo is pictured in a deeply thoughtful pose, her eyebrows arching over pensive eyes. The canvas with an array of fauna includes a monkey and a bear.

The acknowledged Kahlo masterpiece "The Two Fridas" (1939) reflects her inner struggle between anger and forgiveness of her betrayal by her ex-husband. It was painted during a period when she was divorced from Rivera.

The display of Kahlo's work is augmented by some 90 photographs from her own albums. The photographs parallel the paintings in brilliant fashion. All were taken by preeminent photographers including the Mexican photographers Tina Modotti, Gisele Freud and Nickolas Murray. The Frida Kahlo show will close January 20, 2008.

"Minimalism," the art movement that reduces objects and subjects to their basics, is part of a Walker exhibit scheduled to run until April 6, 2008. …