Walker Art Center is a contemporary art center in Minneapolis,
States. The Walker is considered one of the nation's
"big five" museums for modern art along with the Museum of Modern
Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern
Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Hirshhorn.
It was founded in 1879 by lumberman
Thomas Barlow Walker
formally established at its current location in 1927 as the first
public art gallery in the Upper Midwest. Directly across from
the museum are the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which opened in 1988; the Cowles
Conservatory; and St. Mark's Cathedral.
The Walker Art Center underwent a
renovation and expanded the museum in April 2005.
Formally established in 1927, the Walker Art Center began as the
first public art gallery in the Upper Midwest. The museum's focus
on modern art began in the 1940s, when a gift from Mrs. Gilbert
Walker made possible the acquisition of works by important artists
of the day, including sculptures by Pablo
, Henry Moore
, Alberto Giacometti
, and others.
During the 1960s, the Walker organized increasingly ambitious
exhibitions that circulated to museums in the United States and
abroad. The permanent collection expanded to reflect crucial
examples of contemporary artistic developments. Concurrently,
Performing Arts, Film, and Education programs grew proportionately
and gained their own national prominence throughout the next three
Opened in April 2005, the new expansion nearly doubled the size of
the Walker Art Center. The expansion, designed by Herzog & de Meuron
increased indoor and outdoor facilities, allowing for a better
usage of resources from objects in the permanent collection to
books in the library to an inside view of the artist's own creative
A key aspect of the design is a "town square," a sequence of spaces
that draw people for informal conversation, interactive learning,
and community programs.
Today, the Walker is recognized internationally as a singular model
of a multidisciplinary arts organization and as a national leader
for its innovative approaches to audience engagement.
1879 - Lumberer baron Thomas Barlow
opens the first public art gallery west of the
Mississippi at his residence on Hennepin Avenue in Downtown
1927 - Walker Art Galleries opens in Minneapolis, on the current
Walker Art Center site.
1940 - Funded by 1939 Works Projects Administration
grants, Walker Art Galleries becomes the Walker Art Center, and
opens to the public with exhibitions Ways to Art
Parallels in Art
, and Trends in Contemporary Art
signaling its new interest in Modern
.Spring Dance Festival, organized by Gertrude Lippincott
, is the first
performance event at the Walker
1942 - Franz Marc
, Die grossen blauen
(The Large Blue Horses) (1911) is the Walker's first
acquisition of Modern Art.
1946 - Everyday Art Gallery, curated by Hilde Reiss, opens as the
first exhibition space dedicated for design in a U.S. museum.
Everyday Art Quarterly
(later renamed Design
) begins publication as the first U.S. museum journal
1948 - Edward Hopper
, Office at
1954 - Georgia O’Keeffe
Lake George Barns
(1926) is acquired.
1963 - Walker Art Center establishes the Center Opera Company,
which later becomes the Minnesota
.Guthrie Theater opens adjacent to the Walker.John Cage
, with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company
first Walker performance.
1964 - Dominick Argento's
Masque of Angels
performed by the Center Opera Company as
first Performing Arts commission.
1967 - Andy Warhol 16 Jackies
1969 - Major acquisitions include Chuck
, Big Self-Portrait
1970 - Performing Arts Department is formed.
1971 - New Walker Art Center opens, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes
1972 - Film/Video Department is established.
1976 - The Walker becomes a public institution; T.B. Walker
Foundation establishes museum endowment.
1978 - Laurie Anderson
part of the Perspectives series, copresented with the Saint Paul Chamber
.Summer Music & Movies in Loring Park begins.
Sculpture Garden opens, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes.
Commissioned works include Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Spoonbridge
and Cherry (1985-1988)
1989 - Out There series of experimental performance art and theater
1990 - Regis Dialogues, a series of film retrospectives and
interviews with noted filmmakers and actors, begins with Clint Eastwood
and James Ivory
1992 - Minneapolis Sculpture Garden expansion opens.
1996 - New Media Initiatives Department is formed with Gallery 9, a
web site for net art, launches with Piotr Szyhalski, Ding an
sich (The Canon Series)
(1997), the first new-media
1998 - Charles Ray
(1997) acquired.Art Performs Life: Merce Cunningham/Meredith Monk/Bill
multidisciplinary exhibition, celebrates the Walker's long-term
relationships with the artists.ArtsConnectEd, a web site featuring the
collections of the Walker and the Minneapolis
Institute of Art, launches.
2002 - mnartists.org
, a joint project
of the Walker and the McKnight
2005 - Newly expanded Walker Art Center, designed by Herzog & de Meuron
, opens in
The Walker Art Center is on a 17 acre (69,000 m²) urban campus that
includes both buildings and parks. The north wing of the building
opened in 1971 and was designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes
. In 2005 an
expansion designed by Herzog
& de Meuron
opened that doubled the size of the museum and
added new galleries, a restaurant, and a 385-seat theater.
Sculpture Garden, a collaboration between the Walker and the
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, is a sculpture park on the
north side of the Walker Campus.
The Walker Art Center is a leading contemporary multidisciplinary
art center that for decades has remained committed to active
collecting as well as presenting emerging artists in the Visual
Arts, Performing Arts, and Film/Video.
The Visual Arts program is a mix of contemporary, historical,
group, monographic, thematic, and media-specific shows. Dozens of
artists have had their first major museum exposure in Walker
exhibitions, among them Joseph
, Frank Gehry
, Julie Mehretu
, and Kara Walker
Collection is thoroughly integrated with the institution’s history.
After 1958, exhibitions, commissions, and acquisitions were pursued
at a much faster pace. As a result, the collections—though they
encompass the whole of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—are
strongest after 1960. Working with living artists is a priority
during. Many of the works in the collection were exhibited,
commissioned, or discovered during studio visits. Some
relationships with artists—for example, Matthew Barney
, Robert Gober
, Ellsworth Kelly
, Sherrie Levine
, and Claes Oldenburg
—have extended over many
years and encompassed multiple projects, and the collection often
reflects that commitment through deep holdings that follow the
shifts and turns of a whole career. In recent years the Walker has
begun collecting from groups who have remained outside the
traditional artistic canon. These “alternative modernisms” include
, Viennese Actionism
, Italian Arte Povera
, and Fluxus
, all of which developed during the 1950s and
1960s, and all of which are underrepresented in public collections
in the United States.
The Walker began presenting local dance, poetry, and chamber music
concerts in 1940. In 1953, the volunteer-staffed Center Arts
Council (CAC) was formed to organize a wider range of performances
and film screenings. Out of CAC grew the Center Opera Company
(later the Minnesota Opera
) in 1963,
led by John Ludwig and dedicated primarily to contemporary American
opera and unique collaborations between opera and visual artists.
By the time it disbanded in 1970, the CAC had already presented
Merce Cunningham’s first Minnesota performance (1963) and
established its first artist commission, Alwin Nikolais’
Vaudeville of the Elements
(1965). Performing Arts was officially designated as a department
Throughout the 1970s, the department sponsored events in a range of
venues around the Twin Cities, increasing the visibility of
contemporary dance, new music, jazz, and experimental theater and
hosting an array of pop, rock, and folk concerts. The Walker
launched significant program initiatives and established key
relationships with a range of artists now considered
, Mabou Mines
, Twyla Tharp
, Meredith Monk
, and many others—that continue
Widely recognized for presenting a full-range of moving-image art
forms, the Walker Art Center’s film and video programs feature both
contemporary and historical works. In the 1940s, the Walker
identified moving images (mostly movies, but also experimental
films) as integral to contemporary life. Artists of that time were
experimenting with film’s formal properties, such as light, motion,
and sound, while also separating film art from conventional
In 1973, the Film/Video Department was officially formed and the
Edmond R. Ruben Film and Video Study Collection was established,
along with an endowment to fund the development of the archive.
Ruben, a leading figure in film exhibition in the Upper Midwest,
and his wife Evelyn believed in collecting films as a way of
preserving the art form. Today, with more than eight hundred fifty
titles, the Ruben Collection brings together classic and
contemporary cinema as well as documentaries, avant-garde films,
and video works by artists. It is distinctive for its holdings by
visual artists that range from classics by Salvador Dali
, Marcel Duchamp
, and Fernand Léger
to extensive contemporary
work by William Klein
, Derek Jarman
, Marcel Broodthaers
Nam June Paik
, and leading
experimental artists who challenged the form and content of film,
such as Paul Sharits
and Stan Brakhage
The Walker Art Center maintains a professional, in-house design and
editorial department to fulfill its various communication needs.
The department is responsible for the design and editing of all
printed materials, including the creation and planning of
publications such as exhibition catalogues, bi-monthly magazines,
and books, as well as exhibition and event graphics, signage
programs, and promotional campaigns.
Additionally, the department organizes design-related projects and
programs, such as lectures, exhibitions, and special commissions.
Over the course of its 60-plus year history, the department has
organized many important exhibitions on architecture and design,
and has served as a vital forum for contemporary design issues,
bringing hundreds of world-renowned architects, designers, and
critics to the Twin Cities.