Yes MAM!: Milwaukee Art Museum's Plan for the Future

Apr. 14, 2014
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The Milwaukee Art Museum is the city's visual signature. The Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion, Reiman Bridge, and whale tail of a brise soleil constitute the corner office of Milwaukee's central business district. The city's Wikipedia page - the top search result when one googles "Milwaukee" - features MAM in the uppermost photograph depicting the city. I rest my case.

Indeed, the institution tasked with safeguarding our city's world-class collection of art is itself housed in a building that, as MAM Director Daniel Keegan notes, is "one of the most celebrated works in contemporary architecture." Fitting then, that MAM and Milwaukee County are soon to spend the tidy sum of twenty-five million dollars to expand, emend, and beautify the museum - i.e. the work of art in which we store our works of art.

Let's have a look at what can be expected from MAM's Plan for the Future Campaign.

The Kahler and Saarinen buildings, in which the museum's personal collection galleries are located, have been long in need of maintenance to remedy, for example, leakiness and mold infiltration. The two buildings will finally undergo the necessary repairs, ensuring the safety of the museum's collection for generations to come.

Gallery space will also be expanded, allowing for more of MAM's 30,000+ works to be on display at any given time. In particular, expect more gallery space for American art, photography, and 20th Century design.

"The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder," insisted Alfred Hitchcock. By installing bathrooms on every level, MAM becomes compliant with a corollary of Hitchcock's dictum: the distance between museum bathrooms should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.

Arguably the most exciting - not to mention most photogenic - aspect of the campaign is the addition of a lakeside entrance, which not only improves public access to the institution but also beautifies the public space. Since a picture is worth a thousand words and I'd rather not tempt carpal tunnel, I will simply direct you to the artist renderings.

Essentially, come fall of '15, expect a more user-friendly MAM experience. No longer will the American art be spread over three locations. No longer, after having slaked your thirst at Café Calatrava, will you have to choose between the Scylla of 'holding it' and the Charybdis of delaying your aesthetic contemplation in order to return to the lobby's facilities.

MAM is in the last leg of its fundraising campaign, and is soliciting public donations to raise the final million or so dollars.

If everything proceeds according to plan, construction will begin in the fall of 2014. At this point the permanent collection galleries will be shut down for twelve months. Keegan hastens to add, however, that the Quadracci Pavilion will not only remain open, but is slated to host one of the most robust exhibition cycles in years.

In short, exciting things are in store for the Milwaukee Art Museum. Now's the time to show your support with a donation or the purchase of a membership.


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