Milwaukee Art Museum is a surprise for visitors who consider the city to be an unrefined place known for beer, brats, and baseball.
Repurposed lakefront: What a success!
Built on lakefront that was repurposed after an unsuccessful attempt to be a downtown airport and the site of the Nike Ajax anti-aircraft missiles, Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) sits perfectly overlooking Lake Michigan. With its Burke Brise Soleil “wings,” it is the icon of the city, much like NYC’s Statue of Liberty, St. Louis Arch, or Chicago “Bean.”
Although MAM is made of several buildings, including Eero Saarnin’s 1957 War Memorial Pavilion (which Time Magazine called “one of the country’s finest examples of modern architecture put to work for civic purposes”), it’s the Quadracci Pavilion that captures the heart. Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the building in 2001, including the Burke Brise Soleil that opens twice each day, weather permitting. He also added the Reiman Bridge, the pedestrian suspension bridge that connects MOM to the city. It also serves as the counterbalance to the pavilion, which has no interior columns in the 90-foot cathedral space of the grand hall.
Result of a successful private fundraising campaign
The pavilion was built entirely from private funds, kicked off by a (initially anonymous) donation of $10 million from Betty and Harry Quadracci. It was first planned as a small addition, but fundraising and enthusiasm combined to allow Calatrava to pull out all the stops.
The drama of the opening of the Burke Brise Soleil each day is worth the trip to MAM. Weighing 90 tons, the structure is made of steel fins of lengths 26-105 feet. Unless the wind is over 23 mph, the 3-minute opening happens at 10 am and noon each day. At 5 pm, the structure closes for the night. The wings have sensors that cause them to automatically close if the wind reaches 23 mph for 3 seconds.
What’s on the inside?
MAM has over 30,000 pieces of artwork in its collections, with about 10% on display at a time. It has one of the country’s premier collections of Folk and Self-Taught art. Visitors can also see works by Picasso, O’Keefe, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Gaugin, Homer……
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Thursdays till 8 pm. Parking is onsite. For more information, go to the museum’s website at MAM.org.
Another great Wisconsin art museum? Go to Racine! Racine Art Museum (RAM) has an outstanding collection of teapots (yes, teapots) and WPA artwork. Get a Kringle while you’re in town, too!
Other places to visit:
McCord Museum, Montreal: Changing exhibits that tell the story of Quebec.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami: Mansion from America’s Gilded Age