Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Weisman Art Museum Unveils Frank Gehry Designs

Weisman Art Museum Unveils Frank Gehry Designs

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Weisman Art Museum, Building Expansion Project, WAM Cafe – West Facade, Gehry Partners, LLP.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Weisman Art Museum (WAM) at the University of Minnesota unveiled designs for a major building expansion created by Frank Gehry, the visionary architect of its landmark facility, on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. Since opening in its bold and innovative space in November 1993, WAM has experienced explosive growth and achieved extraordinary visibility. Now it is time to add critically needed space for the museum that will double the size of the galleries for collections and exhibitions, allow for the addition of inventive new programming, and enhance visitor services.

The Weisman Art Museum was the first and still is the only Gehry-designed art museum in the United States. It established the daring individualistic style for which he has become famous. “The Weisman is special because it was the beginning of a new design direction for me,” said Gehry. “But at the time we always felt that the architecture was incomplete with the animation facing the river. It means a lot to me that they have asked me to come back and do the expansion. In terms of the design, the expansion means we can bring the architecture around the museum to the pedestrian bridge and Coffman Plaza, something I felt was lacking from the beginning. Architects don’t often get the opportunity to go back to an earlier building and design an addition. I’m excited about the possibilities this offers to me as an architect and eager to get started.”

The Weisman’s building expansion will add about 11,000 square feet to the museum. It will add a dynamic space for a new program focused on creative collaboration, a collection wing with three galleries, and an intimate café. The Target Studio for Creative Collaboration, a wing named in honor of the extraordinary leadership gift pledged by the Target Foundation, will house a visionary new program that will link scholars at the University and innovators from the community with students, artists, and designers for collaborations that will inspire new ideas, art, and design. New collection galleries will highlight three major areas of the WAM collection: American modernism, ceramics, and works of art on paper and photography. The WAM Café will be a place to enjoy informal learning experiences and dramatic views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline. At this point, Gehry has completed the first conceptual stage of design. WAM expects to start construction by the end of 2007 and open in 2009.

“WAM’s fabulous new spaces will stimulate the creativity, intellect, and imagination of students, and visitors,” said Lyndel King, director of the Weisman. “It will bring us into the twenty-first century. Gehry once again has created a striking design that illustrates his genius in combining sculpture with exceptionally functional architecture. The expansion offers visitors a chance to engage with works of art and the artists who create them in an intimate and approachable museum experience.”

Design Highlights - Frank Gehry’s preliminary design for the WAM building expansion features three new wings. Wing 1. The Target Studio for Creative Collaboration, an iconic space located right next to the museum’s main entrance, will be a temporary exhibition space devoted to stimulating creativity through collaborations—collaborations between artists and designers working in a variety of different media, collaborations with scholars in diverse disciplines and innovators from the community. This new gallery space will establish a permanent program focused on visionary collaborations. An important feature of this new wing will be its large window, that will frame what is inside and give passersby, including 20,000 students walking by the museum each day, a view into the creative process. No other museum offers a place and a program quite like this.

Wing 2. A collection wing with three new galleries will be added. The WAM collection numbers more than 20,000 works of art. At any one time fewer than 100 works can be on display in the museum’s current galleries. These new galleries will add 50 percent more exhibition space for the collection. WAM will become a place where visitors can have the intense experience with art that comes only from seeing the same work of art over and over again—and seeing something new in it every time. The American Modernism Gallery will have a permanent exhibit of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, Milton Avery, Charles Biederman, and many other masterworks from the early part of the twentieth century, when American artists were emerging on the international avant-garde art scene.

The Ceramics Gallery will show rotating exhibitions of WAM’s 4,000 ceramics, by masters such as Warren MacKenzie, Hans Coper, and Lucie Rie, as well as anonymous masterpieces by Native American Mimbres people, ancient Greeks, Koreans, and Chinese. The Works of Art on Paper and Photography Gallery will present exhibits from WAM’s collection of more than 8,000. Lithographs of Marilyn Monroe by Pop Art icon Andy Warhol may be displayed with Giovanni Batista Piranesi’s eighteenth-century etching of the Coliseum at Rome, or with twenty-first century medical and scientific imaging and visualizations.

Wing 3. Perched high above the Mississippi River, the WAM Café and its riverside balcony will present visitors with the opportunity to watch the lush green river valley transform into frozen limestone cliffs. Café visitors will enjoy the experience of watching the sunset reflected on the river and the museum. Like the museum’s landmark building and its exhibits, the WAM Café will stimulate the minds and spirits of its guests.

About the Campaign - The Weisman Art Museum also announced, on March 13, the public phase of its capital campaign to secure funding for its building expansion project. Campaign co-chairs Joan Dayton and Carol Bemis have provided leadership for this effort during the quiet phase. Karen Bachman recently joined them as co-chair for the major gifts portion of the campaign.

About the Architect - Frank Gehry, best known for his city-transforming Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, was the unanimous choice of the museum’s architect selection committee. He had previously designed warehouse renovations in Los Angeles as a space for contemporary art, but the Weisman was the first art museum he designed in its entirety. He is also known in the Twin Cities as the creator of a huge glass-scaled fish in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. He won architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, the Pritzker Prize, in 1989, and the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal in 1999.

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