Withering Glance: Updated Weisman is a tin-can delight

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK
  • Updated: November 12, 2011 - 7:07 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

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The Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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CP: Frank Gehry has waved the magic architect's wand once more over the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

RN: No kidding. I worship this place.

CP: I like to call this the little pre-Bilbao that time forgot. Gehry's giant Spanish museum got all the attention.

RN: More like hogged. I'm loving this addition. It's so seamless that I can't tell what's old and what's new, only that the WAM's newfound roominess is 110 percent fabulous. The old Weisman was lovely, but until now I never realized that it didn't feel finished. Now it does.

CP: Word is that Gehry's office always thought the 1993 museum was incomplete, that it ended abruptly, especially on the side away from the river. Now that east facade is festooned with three orange-brick "lily pads" sitting on their concrete "stems." Were you surprised by all that brick from the mind of Mr. Stainless Steel?

RN: Nope. It's Gehry's animated way of relating the museum to its masonry-clad campus neighbors. Genius.

CP: Thank goodness the redone Weisman preserved space for the spooky installation called "Pedicord Apts.," right?

RN: Whatever. I hate that thing. But would you look at that: Ten gorgeous Marsden Hartleys in a single room, and there are another two in the gallery next door. Wow. I love me some Marsden. I don't know if scholars agree, but I consider him America's first great painter who happened to be gay.

CP: You'll hear no argument from me about seeing more of those Hartleys on view, and not stored in the basement. I love the grand new space that is sort of the hub of the place.

RN: I know. That big Robert Motherwell has never looked better.

CP: I'm happy they left the giant chickens painting by Doug Argue in the same spot. But things seem a little thin, once the Hartleys run out. One lovely Arthur Dove storm-scape, one so-so Lyonel Feininger, one budget-basement Milton Avery. The permanent collection does not have a lot of depth. Repeat visits seem nonessential.

RN: Except for the cool gift shop. I'm thinking the building itself is the museum's biggest treasure.

CP: I heard a stat that 20,000 peeps walk past the Weisman each day. How many are ducking inside?

RN: Based on how we have the place nearly to ourselves, I'm guessing it's a fraction of that figure. Too bad there's no cafe, as originally planned. It would fit right in where those empty, sad-looking tables and chairs are located. What are they for, brown-bagging art-history majors?

CP: Gimme a hot plate and a vending machine, and I'll move in.

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