Walker begins sculpture removal for campus renovation

Crews removed "Walking Man" by George Segal from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Credit: Photo by Ellen Schmidt

The Walker Art Center has begun removing works from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden as part of a $75 million overhaul of its campus to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

Many of the art center’s works will be in storage, though several will be relocated to sites like the Weisman Art Museum and Gold Medal Park. The Walker is moving the sculptures in order to enhance its green space, neighborhood access and campus buildings.

Crews will be removing sculptures from the garden through late fall or early winter, but the garden will remain open to visitors through spring 2016. The Walker has already moved Jim Hodges’ sculptural boulders to the museum’s hillside and loaned Jacques Lipchitz’s “Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II” to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The museum will also loan Brower Hatcher’s “Prophecy of the Ancients,” Mark di Suvero’s “Molecule” and Tony Cragg’s “Ordovician Pore” to Gold Medal Park. One of the later works to be removed, Frank Gehry’s “Standing Glass Fish,” will be on long-term loan to the Weisman, which Gehry also designed. The loans are renewable each year for up to five years, after which the Walker will reevaluate them.

The iconic ” Spoonbridge and Cherry” will be among a few sculptures to remain during construction, which is expected to begin spring 2016 and will close the garden to visitors. 

Olga Viso, the Walker’s executive director, said Wednesday that the Walker has raised 80 percent of the museum’s $75 million goal. The museum will look to its donor pool for the remaining $15 million, a Walker spokesman told the Journal in March.

This includes nearly $50 million from the private sector and $10 million secured by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board from the Legislature and Mississippi Watershed Management Organization specifically for the 11-acre sculpture garden reconstruction.

The funding will also go toward a new entrance pavilion on the museum’s north side, a new grassy hill where it hosts Rock the Garden and a new glass wall and patio that would replace a staircase. A Walker spokesman said they are working with Minnesota Public Radio to secure an off-site location for next year’s Rock the Garden, the annual summer music festival in the sculpture garden. 

The Walker also plans to add green space around the garden and commission new works, in addition to bolstering the museum’s endowment and program funding, Viso said.

The Park Board-owned sculpture garden will see improvements to the Cowles Conservatory, which is slated to become an unheated pavilion for wine, beer, coffee or tea concessions, permitted events and park sponsored events. The project also includes a new building for public restrooms, garden orientation and Park Board operations.

The Walker will execute the construction in tandem with the Park Board’s work on the garden. Viso said the museum’s improvements will open fall 2016 and the garden will open in 2017. 

“As we mark our 75th year, we are thrilled to commence plans to realize a fully integrated vision for the Walker’s and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s 19-acre campus,” she said in a March announcement on the project. “It is a once-a-generation moment to shape one of the key gateways to Minneapolis’s downtown cultural district through the integration of art and landscape.”