Walker Art Center: Wikis


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Walker Art Center
Established 1927
Location 1750 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Type Art Center
Director Olga Viso
Website www.walkerart.org
Skyline Room

The Walker Art Center is a contemporary art center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The Walker is considered one of the nation's "big five" museums for modern art along with the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Hirshhorn.[1] It was founded in 1879 by lumberman Thomas Barlow Walker[2] and which he formally established at its current location in 1927 as the first public art gallery in the Upper Midwest. Directly across from the museum are the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which opened in 1988;[3] the Cowles Conservatory; and St. Mark's Cathedral. The Walker Art Center underwent a renovation and expanded the museum in April 2005.[4]



Formally established in 1927, the Walker Art Center began as the first public art gallery in the Upper Midwest. The museum's focus on modern art began in the 1940s, when a gift from Mrs. Gilbert Walker made possible the acquisition of works by important artists of the day, including sculptures by Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti, and others.[5]

During the 1960s, the Walker organized increasingly ambitious exhibitions that circulated to museums in the United States and abroad. The permanent collection expanded to reflect crucial examples of contemporary artistic developments. Concurrently, Performing Arts, Film, and Education programs grew proportionately and gained their own national prominence throughout the next three decades.

Opened in April 2005, the new expansion nearly doubled the size of the Walker Art Center. The expansion, designed by Herzog & de Meuron includes increased indoor and outdoor facilities, allowing for a better usage of resources from objects in the permanent collection to books in the library to an inside view of the artist's own creative process.

A key aspect of the design is a "town square," a sequence of spaces that draw people for informal conversation, interactive learning, and community programs.[6]

Today, the Walker is recognized internationally as a singular model of a multidisciplinary arts organization and as a national leader for its innovative approaches to audience engagement.


1879 - Lumberer baron Thomas Barlow (T.B.) Walker opens the first public art gallery west of the Mississippi at his residence on Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis

1927 - Walker Art Galleries opens in Minneapolis, on the current Walker Art Center site.

1940 - Funded by 1939 Works Projects Administration (WPA) grants, Walker Art Galleries becomes the Walker Art Center, and opens to the public with exhibitions Ways to Art, Parallels in Art, and Trends in Contemporary Art, signaling its new interest in Modern Art. Spring Dance Festival, organized by Gertrude Lippincott, is the first performance event at the Walker

1942 - Franz Marc, Die grossen blauen Pferde (The Large Blue Horses) (1911) is the Walker's first acquisition of Modern Art.

Cargill Lounge

1946 - Everyday Art Gallery, curated by Hilde Reiss, opens as the first exhibition space dedicated for design in a U.S. museum. Everyday Art Quarterly (later renamed Design Quarterly) begins publication as the first U.S. museum journal on design.

1948 - Edward Hopper, Office at Night (1940) acquired.

1950 - Walker art school closed

1954 - Georgia O’Keeffe, Lake George Barns (1926) is acquired.

1963 - Walker Art Center establishes the Center Opera Company, which later becomes the Minnesota Opera. Guthrie Theater opens adjacent to the Walker. John Cage, with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, presents first Walker performance.

1964 - Dominick Argento's Masque of Angels performed by the Center Opera Company as first Performing Arts commission.

1967 - Andy Warhol 16 Jackies (1964) acquired.

1969 - Major acquisitions include Chuck Close, Big Self-Portrait (1967-1968)

1970 - Performing Arts Department is formed.

1971 - New Walker Art Center opens, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes.

1972 - Film/Video Department is established.

1976 - The Walker becomes a public institution; T.B. Walker Foundation establishes museum endowment.

1978 - Laurie Anderson performs as part of the Perspectives series, copresented with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Summer Music & Movies in Loring Park begins.

1988 - Minneapolis Sculpture Garden opens, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. Commissioned works include Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985-1988)

1989 - Out There series of experimental performance art and theater begins.

1990 - Regis Dialogues, a series of film retrospectives and interviews with noted filmmakers and actors, begins with Clint Eastwood and James Ivory.

1992 - Minneapolis Sculpture Garden expansion opens.

1996 - New Media Initiatives Department is formed with Gallery 9, a web site for net art, launches with Piotr Szyhalski, Ding an sich (The Canon Series) (1997), the first new-media commission.

1998 - Charles Ray, Unpainted Sculpture (1997) acquired. Art Performs Life: Merce Cunningham/Meredith Monk/Bill T. Jones, a multidisciplinary exhibition, celebrates the Walker's long-term relationships with the artists. ArtsConnectEd, a web site featuring the collections of the Walker and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, launches.

2002 - mnartists.org, a joint project of the Walker and the McKnight Foundation, launches.

2005 - Newly expanded Walker Art Center, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, opens in April.[7]


The Walker Art Center is on a 17 acre (69,000 m²) urban campus that includes both buildings and parks. The north wing of the building opened in 1971 and was designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. In 2005 an expansion designed by Herzog & de Meuron opened that doubled the size of the museum and added new galleries, a restaurant, and a 385-seat theater.

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a collaboration between the Walker and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, is a sculpture park on the north side of the Walker Campus.


The Walker Art Center is a leading contemporary multidisciplinary art center that for decades has remained committed to active collecting as well as presenting emerging artists in the Visual Arts, Performing Arts, and Film/Video.

Visual Arts

The Visual Arts program is a mix of contemporary, historical, group, monographic, thematic, and media-specific shows. Dozens of artists have had their first major museum exposure in Walker exhibitions, among them Joseph Cornell, Frank Gehry, Julie Mehretu, Mario Merz, and Kara Walker. The Permanent Collection is thoroughly integrated with the institution’s history. After 1958, exhibitions, commissions, and acquisitions were pursued at a much faster pace. As a result, the collections—though they encompass the whole of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—are strongest after 1960. Working with living artists is a priority during. Many of the works in the collection were exhibited, commissioned, or discovered during studio visits. Some relationships with artists—for example, Matthew Barney, Robert Gober, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Sherrie Levine, and Claes Oldenburg—have extended over many years and encompassed multiple projects, and the collection often reflects that commitment through deep holdings that follow the shifts and turns of a whole career. In recent years the Walker has begun collecting from groups who have remained outside the traditional artistic canon. These “alternative modernisms” include Japanes Gutai, Viennese Actionism, Italian Arte Povera, and Fluxus, all of which developed during the 1950s and 1960s, and all of which are underrepresented in public collections in the United States.

Performing Arts

The Walker began presenting local dance, poetry, and chamber music concerts in 1940. In 1953, the volunteer-staffed Center Arts Council (CAC) was formed to organize a wider range of performances and film screenings. Out of CAC grew the Center Opera Company (later the Minnesota Opera) in 1963, led by John Ludwig and dedicated primarily to contemporary American opera and unique collaborations between opera and visual artists. By the time it disbanded in 1970, the CAC had already presented Merce Cunningham’s first Minnesota performance (1963) and established its first artist commission, Alwin Nikolais’ Vaudeville of the Elements (1965). Performing Arts was officially designated as a department in 1970.

Throughout the 1970s, the department sponsored events in a range of venues around the Twin Cities, increasing the visibility of contemporary dance, new music, jazz, and experimental theater and hosting an array of pop, rock, and folk concerts. The Walker launched significant program initiatives and established key relationships with a range of artists now considered masters—Cunningham, Mabou Mines, Philip Glass, Twyla Tharp, Meredith Monk, and many others—that continue today.


Widely recognized for presenting a full-range of moving-image art forms, the Walker Art Center’s film and video programs feature both contemporary and historical works. In the 1940s, the Walker identified moving images (mostly movies, but also experimental films) as integral to contemporary life. Artists of that time were experimenting with film’s formal properties, such as light, motion, and sound, while also separating film art from conventional narrative cinema.

In 1973, the Film/Video Department was officially formed and the Edmond R. Ruben Film and Video Study Collection was established, along with an endowment to fund the development of the archive. Ruben, a leading figure in film exhibition in the Upper Midwest, and his wife Evelyn believed in collecting films as a way of preserving the art form. Today, with more than eight hundred fifty titles, the Ruben Collection brings together classic and contemporary cinema as well as documentaries, avant-garde films, and video works by artists. It is distinctive for its holdings by visual artists that range from classics by Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, and Fernand Léger to extensive contemporary work by William Klein, Derek Jarman, Bruce Conner, Marcel Broodthaers, Nam June Paik, and leading experimental artists who challenged the form and content of film, such as Paul Sharits and Stan Brakhage.


The Walker Art Center maintains a professional, in-house design and editorial department to fulfill its various communication needs. The department is responsible for the design and editing of all printed materials, including the creation and planning of publications such as exhibition catalogues, bi-monthly magazines, and books, as well as exhibition and event graphics, signage programs, and promotional campaigns.

Additionally, the department organizes design-related projects and programs, such as lectures, exhibitions, and special commissions. Over the course of its 60-plus year history, the department has organized many important exhibitions on architecture and design, and has served as a vital forum for contemporary design issues, bringing hundreds of world-renowned architects, designers, and critics to the Twin Cities.

New Media

The Walker’s New Media Initiatives group oversees mnartists.org, an online database of Minnesota artists and organizations that provides a digital gathering place for the local arts community. Through a partnership with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker manages ArtsConnectEd, an online resource for arts educators that draws from both institutions’ permanent collection resources.

Education & Community Programs

Learning is emphasized as a core experience at the Walker through a mix of education programs, community building efforts, and interpretive projects. The department conducts community, family, interpretive, public, school, teen, and tour programs, as well as mnartists.org. Each division offers programs and activities in visual art, performing arts, film/video, new media, design, and architecture. To inform these undertakings, the staff work with Walker curators and partners from local organizations, artists, schools, and community groups. Advisory groups such as the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council, Tour Guide Council, and the Parent Advisory Group are also implemented in the department for the Walker to further build relationships with its audience.


See also

Coordinates: 44°58′05″N 93°17′19″W / 44.96806°N 93.28861°W / 44.96806; -93.28861

External links



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