Walker Art Center

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“For opening the doors of his museum to the best of all of the arts in our time—from painting and sculpture to film, video, and performance—and for opening our eyes to the vital connections between these forms of expression.”

These words, from a presidential citation read when Martin Friedman was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 1989, underscore the former Walker Art Center director’s impact, both in Minneapolis and in the art world at large. In celebration of our 75th anniversary as a public art center, Friedman shares a selection of unpublished reflections on his encounters with art and artists during his tenure here.

Martin Friedman

Animating Space: On the Sculpture Garden

With an apprehensive glance, Oldenburg slowly removed the layers of Kleenex to reveal a captivating object: a spoon, whose bowl rested on an island in a small pond and contained a rubicund cherry. More

Martin Friedman

“It’s Art If I Say So”

“And what exactly is it that you do, Mr. Duchamp?” That question was posed to the Walker’s guest one fall evening 49 years ago during a dinner in honor of Duchamp and his wife, Teeny. “Well,” the 78-year-old exemplar of Dada coolly responded, “I play chess.”  More

Martin Friedman

Indeterminate Adventures with Cage

Composer John Cage’s visits to Minneapolis often veered toward the unexpected—from a late-night reading of James Joyce with Tony Smith to Sunday-morning mushroom hunting in a church yard. More


Martin Friedman

ONCE, Not Again

“It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen daredevil events before,” recalls former Walker director Martin Friedman of a lone 1965 performance by the ONCE Group in the Walker lobby, “but this was the first time I was responsible for them, all in the name of art.” More

Martin Friedman

Cornell Boxes and Cake: A Visit to Utopia Parkway

Mesmerized by boxes containing “fragments of the everyday world that alluded to fragments of imaginary ones,” he set out in the rain from Manhattan one day in 1967 to visit their wizardly creator at his home on Utopia Parkway. More

A 1978 trip to Bologna to witness “a prepared train”—a happening on wheels, featuring John Cage and a host of Italian collaborators.