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Second Year of Minneapolis Institute of Art’ Innovative Exhibition Program Brings

Fresh Approaches to Presentation of Art in an Encyclopedic Museum


Minneapolis, September 16, 2013—Beginning in September, the Minneapolis Institute of Art will bring together artworks from across its encyclopedic collection to explore the question, “What is sacred?” Throughout 10 galleries in the museum’s Target Wing, curators have gathered objects from every area of the museum’s collection, organized around different themes relating to the word “sacred.” Juxtaposing works of art from multiple times and places, these diverse installations probe the nature of the sacred throughout the ages and within today’s secular, multi-faith society. The exhibition includes more than 100 objects dating from 1560 B.C.E. to the present and from various regions around the globe, including the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

 “Sacred” is the second in the MIA’s Global ReMix series, which challenges assumptions about traditional museum display by bringing fresh, imaginative approaches to presenting and interpreting art. The series is part of the MIA’s ongoing commitment to using the museum as a space for experimenting with new modes of curation in order to inspire wonder through the power of art. Innovative gallery design—including a music video lounge and an interactive programming room—will encourage visitors to explore their personal connections to the sacred. “Sacred”will be on view September 2013 to July 2014.

In a multi-faith society, sacred spaces can seem simultaneously scarce and omnipresent—houses of worship become non-denominational while museums may be seen as places of spirituality. The word “sacred” itself is flexible, evolving, and defiant of description, implying something that is both personal and profoundly universal. “Sacred”uses the MIA’s collection, galleries, and community resources to draw personal connections to the word’s contemporary meaning through its significance in other times and places. Refreshed contexts for artwork in the museum’s collection and nontraditional object pairings will help build these connections; for instance, a Daoist priest’s robe from the 17th century and a 20th-century felt suit conjure the sacred, transcendent nature of wearable objects. In another example, sacred works from three continents address the globally fraught question of how to display objects originally intended for use in religious settings.

 “Over the last half century, the Twin Cities have become significantly more diverse, attracting new residents representing many regions, religions, and cultures of the world,” said Kaywin Feldman, director and president of the MIA. “In tackling the subject of the sacred, our curators are pulling on a theme that will resonate across our multidimensional audience and bring us together by showing our timeless and culturally transcendent interest in this subject.”

Display innovations developed for “Sacred”include:

  • The MIA’s acclaimed sculpture of Guanyin (c. 1100) has been worshipped for thousands of years as the Buddhist deity of mercy and compassion. For “Sacred,” Christopher Atkins, coordinator or the MAEP (Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program),and local artist Jan Estep will collaborate to create a more intimate space for this venerated sculpture in which it will descend from its traditional pedestal to engage with museum visitors.
  • A new music video lounge, co-curated by David Little, the MIA’s curator of Photography and New Media, and local teens, will offer a laid-back setting for visitors to explore ways in which the sacred is reflected in contemporary pop music.

 ·         An interactive gallery will offer a range of activities led by local experts in practices including meditation, spiritual art-making, and more. During the run of the exhibition, these specialists will offer sessions on subjects ranging from spiritual walking and breathing meditations to laughing yoga, journal writing, and sound healing.

 “At a time when there is a lot of talk about how Americans are ‘losing their religion,’ there is also evidence that we are exploring spiritual values and practices more actively and creatively than ever before. Locally and globally, there is a renewed search for religious understanding and tolerance,” said Elizabeth Armstrong, curator of contemporary art and director of CAMP (Center for Alternative Museum Practice), who directed this project. “The artworks on view in this new Global ReMix exhibition will reflect the diverse and wondrous ways in which people have experienced and defined the sacred across cultures and throughout the ages, broadening our view of this complex but fundamentally important subject. Its relevance also makes it an ideal subject for an experiment in museum, curatorial, and exhibition design practice.”

 Objects drawn from across the MIA’s collection to be featured in the exhibition include:

 ·         Guanyin, a majestic Buddhist deity of mercy and compassion (c. 1100 China)

·         Virgin of the Milk (Virgen de la leche), a wood sculpture of Mary and Jesus (c. 1500 Spain)

·         44 plates from a Christian illuminated manuscript (late 17th-century Ethiopia)

·         Vassily Kandinsky’s Uber das Geistige in der Kunst (On the Spiritual in Art), a book made with woodcuts, illustrations, and letterpress, from 1912 Germany

·         A cotton and silk dress made for sacred dancing rituals (1920s Syria)

·         Ansel Adams’ Thunderstorm, Yosemite Valley, California, 1945, a photograph that captures the spiritual power of nature

·         Do Ho Suh’s Some/One, 2005, a giant robe based on traditional Asian armor but composed of thousands of polished military dog tags (21st–century Korea)

·         The Yamantaka Mandala, created by Tibetan Buddhist monks at the MIA in 1991

·         The Bes Amulet from approximately the 16th century B.C.E., which is a simplified representation of the Egyptian god of happiness

·         Erika Spitzer Rasmussen’s Coat of Invocation, 2011, a garment designed to bring spiritual healing to its wearer.

About Global Remix

The MIA’s diverse collection and experimental spirit allows for the telling of stories that break out of conventional narratives and modes of interpretation and display. Under the direction of Elizabeth Armstrong, curator of contemporary art and director of the MIA’s Center for Alternative Museum Practice (CAMP), the Global ReMix series was inspired by the success of the museum’s Art ReMix program, in which artworks from diverse times and cultures were presented in provocative pairings throughout the museum. For this new series of installations under the title “Sacred,” Armstrong worked with more than 20 curators, designers, educators, and artists to create 10 unique gallery installations.

        Sacred/Journey – Dennis Jon, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings; and Sheila McGuire, head of School & Teacher Programs

       Sacred/Death –Elizabeth Armstrong, Curator of Contemporary Art and Director of the Center for Alternative Museum Practices; and Alex Kelly, intern

       Sacred/Worship – Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers, head of the Arts of Africa and the Americas and Curator of African Art

       Sacred/Devotion – Chris Atkins, Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program (MAEP) Coordinator; and Jan Estep, professor of Art, University of Minnesota    

       Sacred/Garments – Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Associate Curator of Decorative Art; and Amanda Thompson Rundahl, Innovation Engineer/Head of Interpretation & Participatory Experiences

       Sacred/Practice – Karleen Gardner, Director of Learning & Innovation; and Amanda Thompson Rundahl

       Sacred/Fluids – Eike Schmidt, James Ford Bell Curator of Decorative Arts & Sculpture

       Sacred/Profane – Liz Armstrong and David Francis, intern

       Sacred/Power – Risha Lee, Jane Emison Assistant Curator of South & Southeast Asian Art;  Joe Horse Capture, Former Associate Curator of Native American Art (Effective May 20, 2013, Joe Horse Capture became the Museum Specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian); Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers

       Sacred/Music – David Little, Curator of Photography & New Media; Sage Chicock, intern; and local teens

The debut Global ReMix exhibition, “Globalization,” ran from September 2012 through July 2013 and included eight installations, or “mini-exhibitions,” each designed around a different narrative or theme related to globalism, including “Regeneration” and “Water.” Like the upcoming exhibition, these shows were curated with help of MIA staff, including educators and registrarswho suggested objects, themes, and pairings that responded to the idea of globalization in a range of intriguing ways.

About Visitor Experiences at the MIA

The MIA regularly uses the museum’s collections, special exhibitions, and other resources to actively engage visitors. This November, the museum will open redesigned African art galleries that will encourage exploration and engagement through new interpretative resources and display techniques, allowing works in the MIA’s African art collection to be classified by their own logic and aesthetics rather than traditional Western systems of chronology, geography, or medium. Personalized tours of these and other galleries are always available by arrangement with the MIA’s Custom Visit Designer, and more MIA experiences—both onsite and online—are explored in Verso, the museum’s award-winning quarterly publication for iPad, a dynamic digital magazine of in-depth, multimedia, behind-the-scenes stories about art and the pursuit of artistic passions.

Press contacts:

Anne-Marie Wagener, (612) 870-3280;

Tammy Pleshek, (612) 870-3171;