MIA's Surprise Exhibitions Mark 100-Year Anniversary


The Minneapolis Institute of Arts began its 100th birthday year with a bang on New Year's Day, unveiling a secret exhibition of modern artworks loaned to the museum by the family of the late Myron Kunin. The hair-salon mogul, who owned Regis Corps, was also a philanthropist and collector. The pieces, which are on view for a year, showcase Kunin's taste in American Modernism, with paintings by an array of artists including Marsden Harley, Stuart Davis, and Georgia O'Keeffe.

Opening weekend festivities, which kicked off on New Year's Day, included surprise performances by groups such as Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus and Savage Umbrella. There are plenty of other surprises in store for the rest of the year, too. 

Three masterpieces, loaned from of Europe's greatest museums, will be unveiled at different points throughout the year by some of the biggest names in art. In addition, future events include pop-up reproductions of well-known paintings in major centers throughout the Twin Cities, and water towers wrapped in images of artworks from MIA's collection. 

"American Modernism: Selections from the Kunin Collection of American Art" reveals Kunin's aesthetic, which tends toward a kind of Toulouse-Lautrec-inspired adoration of outsiders. A whole room is dedicated to circus and burlesque performers, for example, highlighting portraits by Walt Kuhn as well as artists such as Theodore Roszak, Richard Lindner, and a Halloween scene by Philip Guston. 

A number of African American artists make up the exhibition, including Beauford Delaney, Romare Howard Beardon, and Jacob Lawrence. Beardon's Folk Musicians stands out particularly with its cubist influence and oversized hands and features, two-dimensionality, and the penetrating eyes of his subjects. There are also works by non-African American artists who draw inspiration from African American history and culture, such as Elmer Bischov's Hangover Club, which depicts a scene in a jazz club, and Thomas Hart Benton's Slave Market illustrating a white man whipping a group of African slaves.

Kunin, who died in October 2013, served as a board member at the MIA for over 35 years. He contributed a number of acquisitions over the years, including African and Native American textiles, photographs, the Frankfurt Kitchen, and the Tatra T87 car. In all, Kunin's gifts included 230 paintings, drawings, and other works.

A few of the paintings on view may have you hoping that the long-term loan from the Kunin family will end up being permanent. Those include a fantastic silhouetted Chestnut Tree by Georgia O'Keeffe, a serene portrait of Christina Olson sitting at the door of her farmhouse by Andrew Wyeth, and a number of interesting pieces by Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis. 

The selections from the Kunin Collection can not only be seen in the main gallery, but also are interspersed throughout the museum, making it a kind of scavenger hunt to find them. Among these hidden gems is the breathtaking Cape Trinity, Saguenay River, Moonlight by Winslow Homer. The gorgeous black-and-white painting, made in 1904, is startling with its vibrant use of black hues, highlighted by just the hint of white moonlight behind the cloud and rippling on the water. 

The MIA also has a number of planned exhibitions opening this year, including a show featuring masterpieces from the Habsburg dynasty opening in February, another exhibit centered on Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester in June, and a show about the influence of Eugene Delacroix slated for next October.