WAM, one of 4 major art museums in arts-loving Minneapolis, is an acronym for Weisman Art Museum. I’ve been in it twice and Ruth one time. It’s a 1993 design by Frank Gehry who oversaw a remodel of it in 2011. Being one of his early buildings, it’s less flamboyant than, say, his Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA. It’s a teaching museum near downtown and across the Mississippi River from the main campus of the University of Minnesota.
Mostly brick and stainless steel, WAM can be viewed from certain vantage points on the campus and can look like a traditional brick building. Up close, however, it’s often compared to a crumpled can and looks like more recent, unmistakable Gehry designs like his museum in Bilbao, Spain. One of its features that’s appropriate for a museum in a city with long winters is skylights and more windows than are usual. Gehry was one of the first architects to use software developed by aerospace technicians while designing buildings. The only area of WAM without skylights is the Edith Carlson Gallery that specializes in light-sensitive works on paper. They represent more than half of WAM’s total collection. I also appreciated the Korea Foundation Gallery that contained some Korean furniture and art works.
This museum’s collection is certainly diverse! It features early 20th century American artists like Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe’s mentor, and more contemporary, more international art creators. Because it’s in Minnesota, several of WAM’s art works show fish, wood, and boats on water, like Dove’s “Gale”. Ruth was especially enchanted to see a Georgia O’Keeffe painting called “Oriental Poppies” because she had bought a poster of it many years ago without knowing its source, and it’s hanging in a hallway in her home.
WAM almost always has a temporary show. The current one unfortunately closes on September 8, 2019. I mention it because it reveals a little known fact about the Twin Cities. They were important during the Civil Rights Movement, and WAM honors this fact every year. This show shows the collection of Hudson and Ione Walker, once residents of St Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. Rondo was founded by former slaves, became ethnically diverse, and was destroyed to make way for a new Interstate highway. Dave Winfield, Gordon Parks, and Roy Wilkins grew up in Rondo, which was named for French Voyageur Joseph Rondeau.