A kiss is just a kiss, but if it happens beside a gigantic “LOVE” sculpture, surely it will mean more as time goes by.

That’s what romantic Walker Art Center officials have in mind as part of a major expansion of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

The Walker announced Thursday that it is adding 16 new artworks, valued at $15 million, including an 8-feet-square sculpture of the “L” word by Robert Indiana near the landmark “Spoonbridge and Cherry” fountain — a place where lovers, young and old, can gather for special moments. “We have definitely thought about it being a popular selfie spot, so a lot of our planning was based on prime photo ops,” said Walker director Olga Viso.

Starting this summer, the sculptures will be installed as part of a renovation of the garden that will be finished by June 2017. The Walker is paying for the art with private funds, more than two-thirds of which already has been raised from gifts or endowment income.

An ultramarine blue rooster could be an even bigger crowd-pleaser than “LOVE.” With its concrete base, the sculpture by German artist Katharina Fritsch will be more than 20 feet tall and visible from nearby streets.

“I predict that it will become one of the iconic pieces in the garden,” Viso said, comparing the bird’s potential appeal to that of “Spoonbridge,” the site’s centerpiece by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

“Hahn/Cock” recalls the weather vanes that once spun atop Midwestern barns, but it is done up in modern materials — Fiberglas reinforced with powdered steel — and repurposed for an urban audience. Originally designed for London’s Trafalgar Square, the rooster will welcome visitors arriving from Hennepin Av. and Dunwoody Boulevard.

“We really felt that we needed a bold, signature piece at the garden’s north entrance so we’re very excited about this,” Viso said. “It’s not a general on horseback, but it’s a playful reimagining of that tradition. It’s irreverent but has this stoic authority at the same time. That’s what I like about it. Katharina is among the most important sculptors working today, and certainly one of the most important female sculptors of this time.”

Most of the existing sculptures have already been moved as workers prepare the garden for closing this spring, most likely in May. Its grounds and pathways will be reconfigured, new trees and shrubs planted and water management systems upgraded as part of a $10 million renovation program paid for by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board with funding from the state of Minnesota and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.

A diverse group

With the new work, women and artists of color will have made about a third of the garden’s art, roughly double their previous tally. Sixteen nationalities will be represented, too.

The Walker commissioned six new pieces specifically for the project.


Minnesota artist Frank Big Bear will produce a 50-feet-long wall piece for the center’s new entrance pavilion (scheduled to open in November) that will face the garden. Aaron Spangler, another Minnesotan, will do a cast bronze outdoor piece. Berlin-based Iranian artist Nairy Baghramian is doing an abstraction. Theaster Gates of Chicago will build a performance platform. Dutch artist Mark Manders will make a suite of monumental bronzes while Philippe Parreno of France is designing a site-specific installation on the hill next to the Walker.

The center bought or was given the rest of the art: an abstract bronze head by Britain’s Tony Cragg , an elevated chair by Cuba’s Kcho, a spidery steel abstraction by Ireland’s Eva Rothschild, a cage-like gate by Monika Sosnowska of Poland, and from the United States a scaffold by Sam Durant, a curved stainless steel “X” by Liz Larner, a gigantic metal figure by Matthew Monahan, and a granite-paver design by the late Sol LeWitt.

LeWitt’s work is a redo of a Vineland Place crosswalk he designed in 1988 linking the sculpture garden to the Walker. It was removed in 1995 after the pavers were damaged by traffic and Minnesota weather. The new piece is a 1988 design that LeWitt preferred, but which traffic officials rejected. Made of carnelian and gray granite, it will be installed on a Walker rooftop terrace overlooking the garden and downtown skyline.

“That’s a great classical solution (to the site problem). I like that; I like that,” said Martin Friedman, the Walker’s former director, from his home in New York City. He commissioned the original designs from LeWitt.

The “Spoonbridge” will remain in its usual spot, but many familiar sculptures will be repositioned.

Fourteen old sculptures are in storage or on loan to other institutions, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Weisman Art Museum, the Denver Botanical Garden and Gold Medal Park near the Guthrie Theater. Some will return when the garden reopens in 17 months, but others may remain in storage or continue to travel as loans.

“We want the garden to be a living, breathing exhibition that has some rotation within it,” said curator Siri Engberg. “We like the idea of Walker sharing its collection more broadly with other institutions that have outdoor spaces.”