Arresting, both inside and out

  • Article by: CHRISTY DESMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2012 - 5:45 PM
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Exterior of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, MN.

The Weisman Art Museum is way more than an eye-popping building. It's a collection of world-class art that has grown steadily over 70 years. But how does the museum's architecture relate to the 20,000 pieces of art within? We asked curator Diane Mullin, who has been at the Weisman for eight years.

Q Any discussion about the Weisman Art Museum invariably starts with the building. Do you consider the building a work of art?

A No. I think of architecture as a separate enterprise, a separate craft. I do think it stands as an important building in the history of architecture.

Q Some people think the building detracts from the art. But in many ways it was tailored to the museum's unique collection. What's your take?

A There's a sense that the interior spaces were built so as not to overwhelm our smaller scale 20th-century American paintings and even the smaller scale ceramics we have. We wanted the art to sit well in the building. The exterior is one thing, but the interior was really tailored.

Q Do you have a favorite gallery?

A I really like the Ceramics Gallery because it addresses the river from the side, and it has a serene quality. I like the scale of it.

Q With completion of the museum's recent expansion, the Weisman opened a "Sympathies" exhibition, which celebrates the collection and the building. Can you explain this unusual project?

A This is kind of a new trend in museums. Usually what happens is the museum will ask an artist to respond to pieces in its collection. So we looked for people whose work had something sympathetic to our collection. Obviously, we wanted to do the building, so we looked to [the New York City-based sculptor and installation artist] Sharon Louden's work with aluminum. And for our Korean Furniture Collection, we looked to [the Duluth-based installation artist] Eun-Kyung Suh. She was working with small compartmentalized objects. [The artists] have actually created new works using the objects in our collection.

Q Any other "Sympathies" projects planned for the future?

A Yes. Next we're doing one based on our Marsden Hartley collection. Another one is based on a subset of our ceramic collection -- these 18th- and 19th-century table-size porcelain figures that we have.

Weisman curator Diane Mullin.
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