April 2011


A thief struck the University Gallery in June of 1967, stealing 6 prints right out of their frames. According to the theft report in the files, the prints (meaning woodcuts, lithographs, and the like) were works by very well-known artists, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Max Beckmann, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The report states:

The group of 13 prints was installed at the request of the Art History Department as a Study Exhibition for Art I Classes, and was to be retained until the end of the examination period for Spring Quarter, June 9. The prints were scheduled to be taken down this morning, June 12.
The 6 missing prints were the more valuable ones of the entire group of 13… Their disappearance was discovered by Mr. Larry Gruenwald, Technician at the Gallery, upon his arrival at the Gallery, Monday June 12, at 7:30 a.m.

The file includes letters to auction houses alerting them to the theft, in case the stolen prints should come up for sale. I couldn’t find any evidence that the prints were ever returned however… I guess this remains an unsolved mystery.

Documentation of the theft

A Bicentennial Exhibition of Art and Architecture

As a researcher and museum fanatic, to read back on the events and accomplishments of the exhibit titled, “A Bicentennial Exhibition of Minnesota Art and Architecture,” I felt the need to push my jaw back up to meet my front bite, after the many drops in awe of the events surrounding this exhibition, the records for which filled ¾ of Box 16, the entirety of Box 17, and even a few more folders that lingered into Boxes 18 and 19.

The contents of each folder document an exhibit that was too large in scope and size to be held in the gallery space of Northrop Auditorium, contain planning notes and correspondence, and document partnerships that resulted in the exhibit’s installation and exhibition at the 8th floor auditorium of Dayton’s department store in downtown Minneapolis from February 11 to March 5, 1976.


The exhibit presented Minnesota painting and sculpture from 1820-1914 and architecture from 1820 to the then present day. Made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the support of foundations, corporations and individuals, this expansive, interdisciplinary exhibit was the result of the first statewide survey of MN art and architecture and also contributed to the publication of two works, “Painting and Sculpture in Minnesota, 1820-1914,” authored by Dr. Rena Coen, and “A Guide to the Architecture of Minnesota” by Dr. David Gebhard and Thomas Martinson. Through research and discovery, important MN artworks such as Alexis Jean Fournier’s scenes of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Thomas Pritchard Rossiter’s depiction of the Minnesota prairie, received conservation work. Forty-four works, held amidst the collections of MN Historical Society to the Winona County Historical Society were restored at the cost of more than $10,000 (funded by a grant).

The exhibit included paintings and artworks with themes of explorers, soldiers, tourists and settlers. Also included were works of Indian ways of life, MN landscapes, and decorative objects created by Minnesota citizens.

Events surrounding the exhibit included Native American craft demonstrations (pipe carving, beadwork), a lecture series titled, “Exploring Minnesota” which covered regional culture in 19th century Minnesota, a lecture series, and panel discussions on the topic of “Encounters in Architecture” were held.

The touring exhibition, which reached 19 MN cities, was the starting point of the University Gallery’s long running touring exhibition program. Forty paintings out of the 200 exhibited in Dayton’s auditorium were selected to join the many cases of Native American art objects selected to tour the state – to bring art to the rural communities of Minnesota. From the first stop in the tour, Willmar, then a population of 13,632, to the last stop, St. Cloud (42,223), with many other stops in-between, the Bicentennial Exhibition made it’s mark by bringing state-treasured artwork to the citizens of greater Minnesota.

And if you thought that the extent of this exhibit could go no further, one final element of the touring exhibition must be revealed. Transportation for the exhibit was organized by the Minnesota Motor Transport Association. Student truck-drivers from the Vocational-Technical Institute #916 Truck Driver Training program received practical driving experience as they carried treasured artwork, in an insulated temperature and humidity controlled trailer, to communities across the state.

Listen to current Weisman Art Museum Director Lyndel King, who directed the Bicentennial Exhibition as acting director of the University Art Gallery in 1976, describe the accomplishments of this exhibition:

Bicentennial Description_King.mp3

Learn more about the exhibit: An article titled, “‘Little Gallery’ accomplishes a big job,” which includes photographs and examples of featured artwork and architecture, was published in the University of Minnesota Alumni News, April 1977. Vo. 76 No. 8. Access a PDF of the Alumni News from the U of M’s Digital Conservancy. The article is on page 20 of the magazine.

Looking Back, part II


Here is a sampling of some of the catalogues we’ve come across from the early 1980s. All are exhibitions that were developed by the University Gallery. (Also see the previous post Looking Back for catalogues from the 1970s.)

Minnesota Pottery: A Potter’s Point of View, 1981
Contact: American Art and Culture, 1919 – 1939, 1981
Martin Finch: 25 Years of Medical Illustration, 1986
Three Women Artists: Gag, Greenman & Mairs, 1980
German Porcelain and the Pictoral Arts, 1980
George Morrison: Entries in an Artist’s Journal, 1983
Images of the American Worker 1930 – 1940, 1983

80s-Contact.jpg 80s-WomenArtists.jpg 80s-GermanPorcelain.jpg 80s-Morrison.jpg 70s-AmericanWorker.jpg

Process: A Public Sculpture

If you’ve spent much time on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus, you’ve no doubt seen the large steel sculpture near Williamson Hall. I’ve walked by it many times without knowing the artist or the title of the work — until I found a WAM file called “Process: A Public Sculpture by Stewart Luckman”. The University Gallery had an exhibition in 1981 showcasing images and plans from the making of the sculpture.

Artist Stewart Luckman was commissioned to create the sculpture, called Rokker V, to commemorate the Alumini Assocation’s 75th anniversary in 1981. Luckman also founded the sculpture program at Bethel University in St. Paul. Current images of the sculpture and the location can be found at Start Seeing Art: Your Guide to Public Art in the Twin Cities.

Luckman at work, plus the plans for the sculpture

Intaglio Techniques

A key component of the history of the University’s art museum is its role in instruction and its function as a teaching museum. Not only does the history of exhibitions reflect periods of art and profiles of artists, but it also includes many exhibits that demonstrate how art is created. In the folder containing materials for the 1977 exhibit, “Intaglio Techniques,” images mounted on thick boards that display the intaglio printmaking process were found:

Intaglio_Hands2.jpg Intaglio_Tool.jpg
Intaglio_Diagram.jpg Intaglio_DHand1.jpg

Mirror of the Middle Ages

From Charles Helsell’s (curator) files associated with the exhibit titled, “Mirror of the Middle Ages,” held at the Gallery from March 28-April 20, 1978, we receive a glimpse into exhibition planning through the design specifications of an exhibit case, as well as fabric swatches considered for the display:

Mirror_CaseDesign2.jpg Mirror_Fabric.JPG

Southwestern Weaving, ’80s style

I discovered a stack of Polaroids in the “Loans” file for the 1984 exhibition Southwestern Weaving Traditions: Past and Present. The images feature rugs and blankets being held up by their owners (I can only assume), and views of the items in the homes of the lenders. I’m not sure whether these weavings were loaned for the exhibition, but I find the casualness of the snapshots and the vivid (Polaroid-enhanced) colors of the rugs charming in and of themselves.


SWpolaroid2.jpg SWpolaroid4.jpg SWpolaroid5.jpg SWpolaroid1.jpg Poloraids-SW-Weaving.jpg

Looking back


Exhibitions come and go quickly, so sometimes it’s nice to look back and remember past accomplishments. These are a few of the catalogues we’ve found from exhibitions developed by the University Gallery in the latter half of the 1970s:

Animals from Legend and Life in Antique and German Porcelain, 1977
The Desert: Indian Art of the Southwest,1976
People of the Plains 1820-1850, 1978
Mimbres Painted Pottery, 1979
Once Upon a Time: Illustrations of Children’s Tales from Around the World, 1979
The Mountains of Marsden Hartley, 1979

70s-AnimalsPorcelain.jpg   70s-Desert.jpg   70s-Plains.jpg    70s-Mimbres.jpg    70s-Illustrations.jpg   70s-Hartley.jpg


Prior to the University’s current Museum Studies graduate minor, a museology program was offered through the Department of Art History. The program, as well as a discussion of the field of museum work, is described in a July 3, 1975 article in the MN Daily titled, “Art interns: learning in a crowded field” (pg. 9).

From a folder of records documenting a course in museology at the University Art Museum in Spring 1985, a chart detailing The Planning, Designing, Construction, and Installation of Exhibitions: