My nephew and I pulled up in front of the Museum's front entrance and I performed the ritual of the helmet. As we climbed the steps I noticed a sign in front of the doors which read "The Minneapolis Institute of Art bans guns on these premises". Minnesota, for all it's live and let live vibe, has gun laws that are well, liberal. Guns anywhere, anytime, we'll shoot you if you disagree. To be fair, in a state with vast amounts of wilderness housing God only knows how many varieties of flesh loving carnivores, these laws, or the lack thereof, do, in a sense, make sense.
The museum opens with a collection of ancient classical statues which echo the building's classical façade. In the center is a sculpture of an athletic youth symbolizing the artist's concept of ideal physical perfection and beauty, except for the genitals which appear to have been hacked off, possibly in a spasm of religious zealotry. There are similar works from the same classical era in the Vatican's collection bearing the same alteration.
The rest of our family band had used another entrance. Going to meet up with them allowed me to gat a look at a large Calder mobile perfectly displayed in a stairwell. We decided to begin our visit on the museum's 3rd floor, home to it's European and American collections.
We came upon a gallery which holds a collection of pieces showcasing the American Arts and Crafts movement. A plate glass window forms one wall of the area giving the museum visitor a spectacular view of the Minneapolis skyline. An informational plaque shows an outline of the skyline with information on the architects and dates of construction of the more notable buildings visible through the window. The collection of Arts and Crafts pieces includes architectural fragments, period furnishings and architect models of important structures emblematic of this style. I felt entitled to bragging rights as the Chicago area is mentioned more than once here.
The galleries are small allowing the visitor to focus on the art in each one instead of being overwhelmed by it. A trio of Russells, an almost trademark O'Keeffe, I recognized it as her work from across the room, and Remington sculptures are shown together in a gallery devoted to art of the American west. A Rembrant, my nephew claims it as his favorite piece in the institution, is found in an area featuring Dutch works. Other Rembrant's, his etchings, in a small exhibition of prints and etchings, show how he changed his work over time. The work may be of the same scene but a town's skyline is made more distinct and moved from the left hand side of the setting to the right. In another, Jesus, in an early example, is an almost ghostly figure. In the later version he is a blood and sinew human being. The crowd beneath the platform on which he stands has been eliminated, changed to a symbolic depiction of the pit of Hell.
There is Thomas Hart Benton's powerful piece "The Slave Market". His unyielding, almost angry brushstrokes and colors show the cruelty and horror of humans forced into labor and bondage.
The impressionist gallery is filled with a soul soothing mix of Van Goghs, Monets, Gauguins and a lovely view of St. Mark's Square in Venice by Renoir. In one room two artists I would never put together in my mind, Matisse and German Expressionist Max Beckman, are juxtaposed, each providing a surprising complement to the other.
The final stop is a special exhibition focusing on art rock, in particular the music group Devo and the punk art of Mark Mothersbaugh. It proves that art can both soothe and assault the senses. Art does not need to be conventionally beautiful, art needs to awaken emotions. To make us ask questions that we may never have known existed. To make us think or feel in ways different than we have thought or felt before.