A place to sit and look

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The Walker Art Center has pulled out some of the older pieces from its collection for patrons to enjoy in a more tradition salon-like setting. Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center.

Not long after the Walker Art Center opened it’s its expanded building in 2005, criticisms started to filter in about the new design. One of the main complaints was that, while there were benches in the common spaces between galleries, there was no place to sit in the galleries themselves while looking at the art. Those people who tire easily can sign out a folding chair and carry it with them throughout the museum. I’ve always found this confusing, because it was my impression that museum’s want their patrons to spend more time with the art, not less.

While the lack of seating remains true for most of the museum, one gallery presents a delightful exception. The “Benches and Binoculars” exhibition features more than 90 paintings from the Walker’s collection, hung on the North and South walls much as they might in an art collector’s home (as they did in lumber magnate T.B. Walker’s original collection).

The floor, unlike in most other public areas of the museum, is carpeted with the same deep purple fabric that covers the multiple benches. Attached to each of the benches are two sets of binoculars, which visitors can use to hone in on any one particular work of art (some are at knee level, while others hang at about 20′ high).

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One of the Walker’s not-so-contemporary gems now on display: Lyonel Feininger’s “Church of the Minorites II.” Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center.

The Benches and Binoculars exhibition features works that while, once “contemporary,” are now more likely to hang in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts than the Walker. Artists include Georgia O’Keefe, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Chuck Close, Franz Marc, and Edward Hopper.

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to making several return trips to the gallery because the exhibition includes one of my favorite paintings, “Church of the Minorites II” by Lyonel Feininger (see above image). It’s a lovely study in line and light, and it’s a delight to see it up on the Walker walls again. It will be a pleasure to be able to sit and contemplate Feininger’s work, and others, for an extended period of time.

“Benches and Binoculars” will be on display at the Walker Art Center in the Linda and Lawrence Perlman Gallery through August 15, 2010.

  • Mary

    I also enjoyed this exhibit and found it a respite in the Walker’s hard-to-navigate space. I think they should have visitors leave comments on how they’d rearrange the paintings. Some of the figurative works, like John Sloan’s, are hung so high that you do have to use the binocs, which naturally aren’t the best quality. It was fun to spy a Corot behind TB Walker in his front-and-center portrait.

    PS In your 1st sentence “it’s” should read “its,” as I’m sure you know.