ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota

Art and Artists
 Berenice Abbott
 Giovanni Canal
 Frank Gehry
 Marsden Hartley
 Louis Lozowick
 Mexico (Nayarit)
 David Nash
 Georgia O'Keeffe
 Vincent van Gogh

Inner Worlds What is Art?  Identity  Designing Spaces and Places
Frank Gehry
Gehry, Weisman MuseumClick for larger image
Frank Gehry
The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, 1993
brushed stainless steel and terra-cotta colored brick
47,300 gross square feet (11,000 square feet of exhibition space)

student link
Ryan, Sartell Middle School
About the Art

In designing a building, architects must think about many things such as the site where the building will be located, the materials to be used in the exterior and interior of the building, the size and shape of the spaces and, most important for Gehry, the needs and wishes of the people who will be using the building when it is finished. This is called the "program" for the building.

The program for the Weisman Art Museum began with Gehry considering the needs of the University Art Museum (now called the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum) and the students and staff of University of Minnesota. His attention to these needs led university officials to choose him as the architect for the Weisman Art Museum in 1992. It was important to the museum staff that this new building be instantly recognizable as belonging to the world of art and a unique place on the university campus in Minneapolis. The president of the university told Gehry that whatever he did, "don't build another brick lump"--referring to most of the other buildings on the campus. The museum was to be a welcoming and accessible place for students, university staff, and museum visitors. Gehry was interested in creating galleries that would be beautiful, but that would not overpower the art that is displayed there. He said, "The trick is to make galleries where the art looks good...which is to say, not on a pedestal."

An important part of Gehry's program was the materials. Gehry has become known for using unusual materials in his architecture. He said, "I always have felt that architecture was about materials. Watching my artist friends work directly with materials--the right product is something that seems right and real and acceptable and not contrived." For the Weisman, Gehry chose stainless steel, the same material found in cooking utensils or kitchen sinks. Its shiny, reflective, but extremely durable surface has given the building its unique identity. While the west side seems to echo the rocky bluffs of the river below, other sides of the buildings incorporate red brick in order to connect with the buildings around it.

The west side of the building, perched on the riverbank, is a towering, irregular, crumpled type of sculpture. Central to its form are the many surprisingly placed windows and skylights, which offer intriguing views into the building from the outside and bring natural light into the galleries. From the inside, these windows frame interesting views of the Mississippi River, downtown Minneapolis and the university buildings.

Gehry's design for this museum won a prestigious Architecture Design Award in 1991.

It is probably easier to talk about Gehry's architectural style in terms of what it's not than what it is. Gehry has moved beyond modern architecture with its emphasis on pure geometric forms embodied by steel-and-glass skyscrapers. However, Gehry denies being Postmodern. Gehry does not refer to historic styles of buildings. Perhaps Gehry could be called a deconstructionist architect who explores ideas of chaos, breaking boundaries and multiple viewpoints. However, Gehry prefers to not categorize his work with any style or movement. Perhaps his approach to architecture is pointing the way to something totally new.

Gehry's work is often more related to abstract sculpture than to architecture. He said, "Every building is by its very nature a sculpture. You can't help it. Sculpture is a three-dimensional object and so is a building."

Vocabulary Terms

modern, modernism--In art history, this term refers to the philosophies of art made in Europe and the United States during a period roughly from the 1860s through the 1970s when certain artists began to take radical steps away from traditional art in order to be deliberately different, critical, and often dissenting from the dominant official taste. Modern art or modernism is characterized by changing attitudes about art, an interest in contemporary events as subjects, personal artistic expression, and freedom from realism. Modernism can be seen as artists' attempts to come to terms with urban, industrial, and secular society that emerged during the 19th century in Western society.

Postmodern--A term used to describe a diversity of styles and mediums explored by artists beginning in the 1970s. Initially applied to architecture that reacted to pure geometric modern styles, Post-modernism is often ornamental and borrows from past art and architectural sytles, putting these elements in new combinations and contexts.

Deconstructionism--In art and literature, a tendency in recent work to subvert or pull apart and examine existing conventions having to do with meaning and individualism. Whether using language, images, or building elements, deconstructivists raise questions about meaning, materials, forms, and other aspects of artistic expression.

[ Return to the TOP of the page ]

Themes, Resources, Participants, Sitemap, Help

Discussion/Activities, About the Artist, About the Art, Teacher Lessons
student link

Inner Worlds | What Is Art? | Environment | Identity | Designing Spaces and Places
About the Art | About the Artist | Discussion Questions/Activities | Teacher Lessons