Minneapolis has been dubbed the “Mini Apple” as it has more art and culture venues than any other US city outside New York. Not everyone would agree with this but it certainly has some cultural highlights worth experiencing while you are there. One of these is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
In the Sculpture Garden you can experience iconic artworks that span nearly a century of creativity. The garden has over 40 permanent sculptures that have been there since its opening in 1988, but it also has a number of temporary artworks on display.
The 11 acre garden near the centre of the city is dominated by a monumental 16 metre long aluminium and steel structure called “Spoonbridge and Cherry” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Oldenburg is known for his oversized renditions of ordinary objects and a spoon has been a recurring motif in his drawings and plans over the years. When he was invited, with his wife Coosje van Bruggen, to design a fountain-sculpture for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the spoon emerged in gigantic proportions. So huge, in fact, that it had to be constructed in a shipyard. Van Bruggen contributed the cherry in playful contrast to the Garden’s formal layout. She also designed the fountain’s pond in the shape of the seeds from the linden trees bordering the garden’s avenues.
Among the many fine sculptures on permanent display are bronzes by Georg Kolbe (1877 – 1947) and Henry Moore (1898 – 1986).
Kolbe was one of the first independent sculptors – he was no longer reliant on a sponsor in the way that his predecessors had been. Early in his career he concentrated on simple, harmonious nudes influenced by Rodin and Maillol, where he sought to represent harmony between the body and the soul. His “Junge Frau” (Young Woman) sculpture on display at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is from 1926 and is reminiscent of the garden statuary of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The mid-1920’s were a highpoint in his career but some of his sculptures were banned during the Nazi era, and he was obliged to create works in a more heroic style, acceptable to the regime. He never again achieved the graceful beauty of his earlier works and died soon after the Second World War.
Moore’s “Reclining Mother and Child” (1960-61) is typical of the sculptor’s distinctive style of combining form and subject matter. This abstract sculpture suggests a child in the protective embrace of its mother; the solid contour surrounding the hollow area representing the torso of the reclining woman. Moore was one of Britain’s greatest artists but as a young man, he rebelled against his teachers’ traditional views of sculpture, preferring instead to look for inspiration in Eastern works he saw in museums. He pioneered carving directly from materials, evolving his signature abstract forms derived from the human body. Not only did primitive art and surrealism have an influence on Moore’s work but also his experience of war and society’s changing views on sexuality.
Henry Moore’s sculptures are often at their best in the open air – the effects of the changing light, the longer perspectives and simply the surrounding space all add to our appreciation of his work. So the outdoor galleries of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden are the ideal location, Moore himself was known to have a preference for his work to be displayed on an outdoor landscape.
Inside the garden’s conservatory stands an astonishing 22 foot high glass fish by Frank Gehry. The architect and artist was inspired to create “Standing Glass Fish” from his childhood memories of live fish bought by his grandmother on Thursdays and allowed to swim in the bath before becoming supper on Friday.
And don’t miss the elegant bronze horse “Woodrow” by Deborah Butterfield which looks like it is made from natural tree bark and branches. Originally Butterfield made horse sculptures out of real mud and branches as a reflection of how much a horse is part of his environment. For “Woodrow”, the artist took a selection of sticks, tree branches, and bark that she cast in bronze, then assembled and welded together into the form of a horse.
Although pictures of the sculpture garden in winter look very attractive with all the snow try and visit in the warmer summer months as Minnesota winters are extremely cold.
If you happen to be there in the winter, a better option might be to spend some time at the Walker Art Center, which is just opposite the Sculpture Garden.