Something has always been off. I grew up near Chicago, where the Art Institute is an institution. I’ve lived in St. Louis, where the St. Louis Art Museum is a beloved part of the even more beloved Forest Park. I’ve stood in line for the Louvre (and still had time to explore it). Yet my memories are rarely of the paintings, sketches, or sculptures—my apologies for that. What I remember of these places are the lions in front of the Art Institute, the renderings of a new wing that has since been built in St. Louis, and the amazing tallness of the galleries in Paris.
Turns out, my art is architecture. I go to art museums to enjoy the buildings themselves. Given that condition—or ailment or temperament or whatever you’d call it—I’m lucky to have ended up in the Twin Cities. As architecture goes, a walk through the MIA is a treat.
Surely the designers knew they were creating their own art with the floor-to-ceiling windows along the 24th Street side of the museum, offering views of the downtown skyline. The people who keep the old Otis elevator in working order deserve a raise. And the soul who bought a hallway from the Met should get a medal.
My favorite object at the MIA, other than the entire building, is the Frank Lloyd Wright Hallway. The Little residence from which it came has had quite the circuitous history, for a house. Built by Wright along the shore of Lake Minnetonka, the home was later sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, and then sold off in pieces. But this wasn’t a chop-shop operation (like the one that claimed my car last year). The hallway fits seamlessly into a room dedicated to Wright and other Prairie Schoolers.
I think the key to the Wright Hallway is the lake view installed behind the windows. It’s really only half a hallway, so the lake view completes the illusion, makes me feel fully enveloped in a cozy house. I’m waiting for the MIA to build a porch a few steps away, so I can sit there, listening to loons.
Tom Weber will read from his new book, 100 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die (Reedy Press) on Wednesday, May 27, at Magers and Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis; enter to win prizes from the MIA and other places mentioned in the book. He is the host of MPR News with Tom Weber, heard weekdays at 11a.m. and focused on all things Minnesota. He came to MPR News as a reporter in January 2008, joined the newly created weekday news talk show The Daily Circuit as a co-host in 2012, and became host of MPR News with Tom Weber in late 2014.