Kansas City Museum to honor former Walker director

Say the name Martin Friedman to most people in the Minnesota Arts scene and they’ll immediately recognize the name of the mann who directed the Walker Art Center for almost 30 years. Friedman, who retired from the Walker in late 1990, is credited with transforming a regional art museum into a world class cultural institution.

He’s not just been sitting around since leaving the Walker, and one of his enterprises has been as a consultant for 20 years to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. When he announced his impending retirement from that job, the Hall Family Foundation which had funded his work asked Friedman to commission a work in honor of his time with the museum.


Friedman, who also oversaw the creation and launch of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, knows a thing or too about sculpture. He immediately turned to Roxy Paine, a New York based artist and commissioned “Ferment.” Friedman and Paine are shown below discussing a site for the piece.

It’s a huge stainless steel tree which will be installed this week at Nelson-Atkins. Paine worked as an artist in residence at the museum and the commission is seen as a testament to the institution’s success in encouraging developing artists .

Paine has been concentrating on a form he calls Dendroids since the late 1990s, and there are now 24 of these tree shapes in the US and around the world. Fans describe Paine’s work as exploring how nature and technology co-exist.

That co-existance has been on view as the piece, which began as an Indian ink drawing (right) has grown into a metallic reality as can be seen on a video produced by the Museum, which includes Friedman.

Just as was done at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s “Steel Roots” show, opening in April, the Nelson-Atkins museum also used digital technology and a photo of a model to see how the piece, which will be 56 feet tall, will look in place (below.)


The museum poured a special concrete pad last year for the piece which was constructed at Paines’s studio in Treadwell NY. It’s also installed a webcam so people around the world can watch the installation. While work won’t start for a while, the image is already up and running.

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