Former Walker Art Center director Martin Friedman was never shy in talking about art with museum visitors, on the radio, during interviews, in the board room or anywhere else. Always well informed, witty and self-deprecating, Friedman was a champion promoter of the new and the avant garde throughout his 30 year tenure at the helm of the Walker. His voice was never silent.
So it's no surprise that the institution is honoring him in June with a new sculpture on the 25th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, whose design and construction he oversaw.
But why a silent, voiceless bell? The sculpture, by Belgian artist Kris Martin, consists of a large clapper-less bronze bell suspended from a 16 ft. tall steel saw horse. Originally cast for the tower of a German church, the bell in the sculpture will be "swinging continuously without emitting a sound," according to a Walker statement.
It's name "For Whom" alludes to English poet John Donne's famous celebration of human fellowship and mourning: "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
In the Walker's interpretation a tolling bell "alludes to the preciousness of life and its endless cycles from birth to death," but because the bell-sculpture is silent, "all of these associations come to life in the viewer's imagination."
So maybe they just wanted to keep peace in the neighborhood and avoid antagonizing nearby residents with a potentially noisy sculpture that teenagers and other art enthusiasts could ring at all hours?
"For Whom," will be the second bell sculpture in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, joining Barry Flanagan's 1983 "Hare on Bell," which consists of a lanky bronze hare leaping over a big bronze bell.