Saturday, March 19, 2016


The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden sits on eleven acres of prime real estate in downtown Minneapolis. With forty permanent installations, it is one of the largest sculpture gardens in the country. Unfortunately, when we were there, most of the sculptures were in storage while the park was getting a make-over.

We began our visit at the Cowles Conservatory, the ultimate "house with glass walls." The walk is lined with seasonal plantings, succulents, and ferns. Loud talking seems out of place in this almost church-like place.

Individual rooms are created by walls covered in creeping fig

The pathway opens up into this room filled by an enormous glass and steel fish created by architect Frank Gehry in 1986.
Of this sculpture, Gehry wrote, "In Toronto, when I was very young, my grandmother and I used to go to Kensington, a Jewish market, on Thursday morning. She would buy a carp for gefilte fish. She'd put it in the bathtub and this big black carp--two or three feet long--would swim around and I would play with it. I would watch it turn and twist . . . and then she'd kill it and make gefilte fish and that was always sad and awful and ugly."  This fish is worth a visit all by itself. Gehry's childhood trauma has become pure joy for today's tourists.

The Sculpture Garden itself is an appendage of the Walker Art Center, which is considered to be one of the top five museums for contemporary art in the United States. I was disappointed that we didn't get to see it in all its glory. Earlier in the year we had visited the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines and loved it, and I was hoping for a similar experience. 
Oh well, it's yet another reason to make a return visit, right?

And anyway, what was left in the Sculpture Garden was still worth the visit.

I remember the first time I saw a photo of Spoonbridge and Cherry (1988), a unique bridge and fountain designed by Claes Oldenburg and his wife Coosje van Bruggen. Until we planned our trip to Minnesota, I had no idea where it was located.
Oldenburg is known for his very large replicas of everyday objects. His many creations include a tube of lipstick, a clothespin, trowels, a toothbrush, and the shuttlecocks I saw at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.

The artist statement (from here) gives some interesting information about the origin of the design:

"In searching for a subject that was horizontal and included fountain elements, so as not to dominate the other sculptures in the garden, we tried a spoon over water, terminating in an island . . . . Its silver color and edges suggested ice-skating, a popular activity during Minneapolis' several months of winter. The raised bowl of the spoon, in its large scale, suggested the bow of a ship. Cossje, however, had always considered the spoon form in itself too passive a sculptural subject, which she had once playfully demonstrated by placing a wooden cherry with a stem made from a nail into a spoon found in the studio, an act that instantly energized the subject. The combination was now repeated in the presentation model for the garden sculpture. The cherry stem was situated in a contrapposto relation to the curve of the spoon and eventually turned into a fountain: while spray from the end of the stem disperses in the air, water issues silently from its base, coating the voluptuous cherry so that it glistens. The cherry is aligned with the long axis of the garden allee, dramatically attracting visitors with its deep red hue. . . . Spoonbridge and Cherry takes on a new aspect in the winter season. The water is shut off, but, topped with snow, the cherry turns into a mouthful of ice cream sundae." 

It was hard to get a picture without the men and machinery photobombing it, but this one comes close:

A few other sculptures have not been put in temporary storage, including Nautilus (1976), fabricated from steel by American artist Charles Ginnever:

X with Columns (1996) is by American Sol LeWitt:

Of course it would be tough to store Beautiful Autumn Foliage (2016) by Mother Nature:

Mark di Suvero makes large, abstract sculptures from steel beams. This one, entitled Arikidea (1982), has a wooden swing suspended from the center. It is meant to be sat on, and there was a couple on it when we arrived. I wish I knew what the name means. It sounds playful, like the name of a children's game.

Just across the street on the terrace of the Walker Art Center is a 25-foot-tall aluminum sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein entitled Salute to Painting (1986).

While I wish we had been able to see the full sculpture collection, it was worth the trip just for the Gehry fish and the Oldenburg/van Bruggen spoon and cherry.

St. Mary's Basilica peeping over the wall


  1. This looks like a fun place to visit. I do love the cherry and spoon, but nothing touches that Mother Nature creation.

  2. I agree with Chris, Mother Nature was the best artist here.