Minneapolis Sculpture Garden prepares for renovations


Yesterday, some pieces from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden were removed as part of a massive renovation project of the park that will conclude in 2017. Woodrow (1988) by Deborah Butterfield and Walking Man (1988) by George Segal were both taken out and moved to an undisclosed location. Most of the other sculptures will be placed in storage as well, with the exception of Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, which will remain onsite, and five sculptures that will have temporary homes for the duration of the work.   “It’s exciting to see this first movement of sculptures in the beginning of this project launch,” says Olga Viso, director of the Walker Art Center.

The rest of the sculptures will be moved this fall, and construction on the grounds will begin in the spring. Because it’s so large, Spoonbridge and Cherry will remain in the park, while the temporary home for Jacques Lipchitz’s Prometheus “Strangling the Vulture II” (1944/1953) is at the MIA in its courtyard. Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule (1977-83), and Tony Cragg’s Ordovician Pore (1989) will all be temporarily placed in Gold Medal Park, while Frank Gehry's Standing Glass Fish (1986) is heading over to the Weisman Art Museum.

The renovation is a partnership between the Walker and the Minneapolis Park Board, as well as the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, using $8.5 million in state bonding money, $1.5 million in funding from MWMO (which will go toward sustainability storm-water issues), and additional funding from the acquisition fund and private donations for new commissions. As has been the case since the Sculpture Garden’s inception, the Walker will continue to provide art and programming for the park, while the park board’s responsibility is to maintain the park and sculptures.

While the Walker hasn’t revealed what new commissioned artworks will be added to the Sculpture Garden, Viso says that the museum will be bringing back some favorite pieces. 

MWMO’s interest in the site has to do with the storm-water reclamation opportunities. The new park will include more fresh meadow areas, and the Walker intends to add educational and interpretive programs around the natural environment.

The park will have a new landscape plan, and the Walker is additionally planning on putting sculptures on the hill across the street from the garden. “It will be a kind of one-campus feel for our visitors,” Viso says. The four “galleries” will remain in a similar design, as will the placement of Spoonbridge and Cherry, but the entrance, the conservatory, and the back four acres will all be different.


The new renovations are building on the legacies of Martin Friedman and Kathy Halbreich, the Walker directors before Viso. “It’s a once-a-generation moment to reshape the whole 19 acres as an integrated campus,” Viso adds.

“It was groundbreaking and state of the art at the time, almost 30 years ago,” she says. "[The current renovation] is an opportunity to build on the great design that’s here but also bring new younger artistic voices into rethinking the site and the history in our time.”