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Milwaukee Art Museum to Celebrate Architecture in 2011
Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo: Timothy Hursley.

MILWAUKEE, WI.- To celebrate the 10th anniversary of its iconic addition designed by Santiago Calatrava, the Milwaukee Art Museum has announced an ambitious exhibition and program series for 2011 that focuses on architecture. The Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion—whose moving parts are unprecedented in U.S. architecture—has resulted in a revitalized waterfront in Milwaukee, allowed for acclaimed exhibitions, and more than doubled Museum attendance.

The 2011 anniversary program will present three exhibitions, Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century (February 12–May 15, 2011), The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City (June 11–September 11, 2011), and Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and the Milwaukee Art Museum (September 8, 2011–January 1, 2012). In addition, the Museum will feature symposiums and panel discussions on architecture and special events with visiting architects.

“ Milwaukee will be an important destination for architecture in 2011,” said Daniel T. Keegan, director, Milwaukee Art Museum . “The Milwaukee Art Museum is now the symbol of the city, due to the visionary efforts of Mr. Calatrava. We hope to attract architects and visitors from around the world to see firsthand the resounding success of extraordinary architecture, and to view our Frank Lloyd Wright, Treasures from the Forbidden City, and Calatrava Building a Masterpiece exhibitions.”

Overlooking Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s extraordinary white concrete, 142,050-square-foot Quadracci Pavilion is instantly recognizable by its movable sunscreen, which lifts like wings over the Museum’s soaring reception hall—unfolding when the Museum opens each morning and folding at night. A suspension pedestrian bridge connects the city to the Museum, and the interior cathedral-like structure has a vaulted 90-foot-high glass ceiling. Finished in 2001, the Quadracci Pavilion is the first building Calatrava completed in the United States.

“I had clients who truly wanted from me the best architecture that I could do,” Calatrava has said. “Their ambition was to create something exceptional for their community…. Thanks to them, this project responds to the culture of the lake: the sailboats, the weather, the sense of motion and change.”

“Museums across the country bring immense value to their communities,” said American Association of Museums president Ford W. Bell. The Milwaukee Art Museum, with its spectacular addition, against the backdrop of Lake Michigan, has created one of our country’s great cultural icons. Not only has its new home served to introduce its collection to nearly four million visitors over the past decade, it has also brought substantive, tangible rewards to the city‘s economy, culture and image.” Keegan added: “The Associated Press reported in 2007 that the economic impact on the city increased by 44 percent to $20.1 million between 2000 and 2006.”

Related Exhibitions
Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century will be on view from February 12 through May 15, 2011. The exhibition will survey Wright’s major projects, including Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois (1905), Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania (1936), and Johnson Wax in Racine, Wisconsin (1936), known today as the SC Johnson Administration Building. The exhibition is timed to mark the centennial of Taliesin (designed 1911–59), Wright’s home, studio and school in Spring Green, Wisconsin . Among the highlights will be over 30 drawings that have never been exhibited before, as well as furniture, photography and work relating to Taliesin and Taliesin West, his later home in Scottsdale, Arizona (designed 1937–59). Many of the works are on loan from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale . Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century is the first exhibition to consider the relevance of Wright’s organic architecture to today’s environmentally conscious society.

In summer, the Milwaukee Art Museum will present, from the Qianlong Garden in Beijing , The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City. This major exhibition of over 90 objects will survey murals, paintings, furniture, and architectural components found in an extraordinary complex of lavish buildings and exquisite landscaping dating back centuries. When the last emperor fled the Forbidden City in 1924, the doors were shut and the objects remained unaltered until 2001, when the Palace Museum in Beijing began a massive restoration project in conjunction with the World Monuments Fund. These objects have never been seen by the public before, and will be in Milwaukee June 11–September 11, 2011, before returning to their permanent home in China .

“We are thrilled and honored to be one of only three museums in the country to feature these beautiful objects,” said Keegan. “Treasures from the Forbidden City is part of a much larger exhibition schedule on Chinese art, and we are calling 2011 the ‘Summer of China ’ at the Museum. More than likely, exhibitions of this international cultural significance would not have been possible without the cachet the Calatrava-designed addition has brought to the Museum.”

Finally, the Museum will honor Santiago Calatrava’s impact on the city with the exhibition Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and the Milwaukee Art Museum from September 8, 2011, through January 1, 2012, which will survey drawings, photography, models and video related to the Quadracci Pavilion. Santiago Calatrava has said that buildings by Wisconsin ’s native son Frank Lloyd Wright inspired his addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum . Many of the works have never before been on public view.

In 1994, the Museum’s search committee chose Calatrava from a field of 55 architects. A $10 million then-anonymous gift from Betty and Harry Quadracci kicked off a capital campaign. Flying to Milwaukee 40 times over the course of designing and building the Museum addition, Calatrava’s “design evolved into a very challenging project—full of curves requiring painstaking custom work and features that had never before been made for a building,” wrote Cheryl Kent in the book Santiago Calatrava: Milwaukee Art Museum, published by Rizzoli in 2005.

The building incorporates both cutting-edge technology and old-world craftsmanship. The hand-built structure was largely created by pouring concrete into one-of-a-kind wooden forms. It is a building that could only have been made in a city with Milwaukee ’s strong craft tradition. The Quadracci Pavilion has attracted numerous accolades, including Time magazine naming it the best new design project of the year in 2001.

The Milwaukee Art Museum comprises three buildings designed by three legendary architects: Eero Saarinen, David Kahler, and Santiago Calatrava.

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